In October, Herman Mashaba abruptly resigned as mayor after the DA leadership received a makeover.
Mashaba’s strongly worded resignation speech described an unworkable environment in the party. While the EFF, which helped the DA secure the mayoral position after no party managed to win an outright victory in Johannesburg during the 2016 local government elections, announced it would no longer vote with the country’s second-largest party, it was broadly supportive of Mashaba.
The EFF believes it can challenge the DA and the ANC for the City’s mayoral chain.
Last week, it announced Musa Novela as its mayoral candidate, signalling its intention to govern. Novela has been silent on what he intends to bring to the office, despite numerous attempts to get comments from him.
This move, coupled with the ANC’s push to regain control of the City, has threatened the DA’s coalition in Johannesburg, opening a fierce battle between the country’s three biggest parties.
The ANC, as expected, has moved quickly to court the DA’s coalition partners, shopping around for new alliances.
The DA played it safe, announcing Funzela Ngobeni, a known player in the DA’s caucus, who now heads the crucial finance portfolio on the mayoral committee, as its candidate.
After much speculation on who the party would pick as its candidate, the ANC announced caucus leader Geoff Makhubo just hours before the sitting.
News24 spoke to two of the candidates who, in their own words, spoke of their ambitions to lead the City.
On the back of a fractured and short-lived marriage of convenience with the EFF and the DA’s own goals, Ngobeni’s mayoral appointment may prove difficult if the party manages a win.
Ngobeni, who says he is up to the task, told News24 that he would continue with Mashaba’s project which he helped construct while on the mayoral committee.
“We only have 16 months before the term ends, we have agreed on the strategic direction of the City. We have agreed on [the] Diphetogo [project]. The budget has been set aside for Diphetogo and we can’t afford to change direction. I remain confident that colleagues will make the right decision. I strongly believe that we need to build on the successes of the last three years,” he said.
Mashaba’s pro-poor policies which he claimed had been undermined by the DA, would continue to flourish under Ngobeni, he said.
Unlike like his predecessor, Ngobeni believes he has the unwavering support of his party in advancing these policies.
“I was clear that I will continue with the vision that we have agreed with under Mashaba. I will continue with our pro-poor agenda, enhancing service delivery in the City. It’s our constitutional and moral obligation to deal with inequality in our city. I sold that vision to the selection panel,” he said.
His ambitions include building on Mashaba’s strong relationship with the EFF, which he believes can be revived.
Ngobeni advanced this argument by explaining that while Mashaba was the mayor, he was intimately involved in discussions with the EFF and the DA’s coalition partners.
“The arrogance and political ideologies that we differ on, those are matters that should be debated in Parliament and [at] national level but here in local government, it’s bread and butter issues. It’s things that affect our residents. Water must flow, electricity must run uninterrupted, roads must be tarred, potholes must be filled, traffic lights must work. Those things we agree on and there shouldn’t be issues of debate.”
Makhubo, who leads the ANC in the region, has also spent time as the MMC for finance in the City under the leadership of former mayor Parks Tau.
His candidacy was threatened when reports of his alleged involvement in a tender emerged, with claims he scored R30 million from exerting his influence in the metro. He has denied any allegations of corruption against him.
“I am under no illusion to suspect there is anything wrong that we did. Allegations are allegations. I don’t think there is any cloud. The enemy keeps regurgitating the same thing, hoping it will stick. The story has not developed. It’s stagnant. I have been quietly waiting for the formal processes to conclude,” he said, adding that he would finally speak once the provincial party structures concluded the investigation.
Although the ANC holds the majority in council with 121 seats, after one of its councillors died last week, Makhubo will need the help of smaller parties to take control of the City.
The ANC has been linked to the IFP, which holds five seats in the council, if Makhubo intends to stamp his own vision in the City, he will need the help of several political parties.
“We going to a coalition with parties and partners where we have an agreement in saying what is in the best interests of the City. My attitude is that we have to reach out to the DA and EFF, we can’t isolate anyone like Mashaba did with the ANC. We have to find a way of working together beyond the coalition agreement we have with our partners,” he said.
His first days in office, if elected, will focus on visible service delivery. An impassioned Makhubo told News24 that he wanted to improve the experience of Johannesburg citizens.
“Robots must be working, taps filled, grass must be cut, as you walk into Johannesburg there must be cleanliness. That’s the focus on my first 100 days. It’s the look and feel of Johannesburg. There will be other transformation programmes that must be introduced,” some of these he admitted will be a continuation of Mashaba’s projects.
The EFF’s Novela declined an interview.