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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Soweto-born imam could be Joburg’s next mayor – sources

Fielding Thapelo Amad, Al Jama-ah's sole councillor, indicates how deep the mistrust and political hostility among the ANC, DA and EFF is, an analyst says.

The next executive mayor of the City of Joburg may not be from the ANC, but a Muslim minority party member and an imam, born and bred in Soweto, sources say.

They confirmed that discussions between the opposition ANC and councillors from the minority parties were under way to choose a mayoral candidate from one of the smaller parties to replace incumbent Herman Mashaba. This is if the proposed ANC-sponsored motion of no confidence against him succeeds on August 22.

Various sources have confirmed that Al Jama-ah, the new kid on the political block, is likely to get the post and its sole councillor and chief whip, Thapelo Amad, could become the next mayor in a move similar to that the ANC used to oust the Democratic Alliance (DA) mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay last year.

Mongameli Bobani of the United Democratic Movement was elected to replace the DA’s Athol Trollip as mayor there last year. Both the major parties, the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who together plotted Trollip’s downfall, declined the mayorship and agreed to Bobani wearing the mayoral chain, although he was from a smaller party.

Amad declined to comment, but sources in the party were optimistic that Al Jama-ah would take the mayoral post if it became vacant on August 22, when the anti-Mashaba motion goes to the vote.

Mashaba appeared ready to accept defeat, especially if the EFF did not support him. He told The Citizen this week he was ready to go if need be as he had never wanted to be mayor and was only there to “serve the people”.

An Al Jama-ah member said their number-crunching indicated that even if the EFF made a last minute U-turn and supported Mashaba, the ANC and the minority parties would be able to vote him out.

“We still have to sit down and decide with other parties who must be the next mayor of Johannesburg, but it is highly likely he will come from Al Jama-ah. We want to do it the Nelson Mandela Bay way – give it to a smaller party,” the source said.

If elected, Amad will be the first Muslim mayor in South Africa. “This is important for the party because Islam is being stigmatised, not only here but all over the world,” another Al Jama-ah source said.

In the May 2019 national elections, Al Jama-ah won a single seat in the National Assembly. The party promised to make inroads in the support of the major parties in future as the Muslim community supported the Islamic cause. As a black Muslim, Amad, 37, has the potential to attract wide support from both African and Muslim people.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said fielding a member from a small opposition party was a “well-calculated move” by the ANC to establish new allies against the other “big boys” like the DA and the EFF in the metro.

“This indicates how deep the mistrust and political hostility among the ANC, DA and EFF is. It shows they are so divided and hostile to one another they have no common cause.

“There is no major benefit in having a smaller party at the top. It’s on the spur of the moment as they found themselves in this situation by default, not by design,” Fikeni said.

Fikeni said as the mayoral candidate came from a smaller party, the position would be nominal because his party had no real power. This might constrain the functioning of the government at local level in the long run.

Amad is currently doing a BA honours degree in Islamic Studies at the University of Johannesburg. His research topic is liberation theology and Koran and commentary. He planned to pursue a master’s degree focusing on liberation theology and decolonisation.

Amad, who is in Mecca in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage this week, declined to comment, except to say “I heard about those rumours”.


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