South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Monday lost control of Johannesburg, the country’s biggest city to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party to head the mayor’s office.
Dr. Mpho Phalatse became the first black woman to be chosen by the city council to lead the Johannesburg mayoralty and the first woman since 1946.
Phalatse won 144 votes to ANC candidate Mpho Moerane’s 121. This is the fourth appointment as mayor of Johannesburg this year: one died of COVID-19, while another one died in a car accident.
For the first time in any election, ANC Nelson Mandela’s party fell below 50% in the municipal elections in early November, suffering a historic setback. Up until now, the part had won every vote by an absolute majority since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Established from the merger of three “white” parties in 2002, the DA was the largest opposition party for almost 20 years. Long seen as the party of the white middle class, it then attracted many black voters, before being caught up in allegations of racism.
Although it is South Africa’s economic heartbeat with a 15% GDP generation, Johannesburg’s power and water systems are near to collapse and the 12,000km road network is dilapidated, while crime in the inner city is out of control and growing in double digits quarter on quarter.
Phalatse’s first duty as mayor will be to create a stable government of local unity to drive through her manifesto of:
• A R20-billion investment in the city’s road network (the current budget is R1.6-billion/year);
• To fix water leaks in 24 hours (they often go on for days);
• To have potholes filled in within 72 hours of being reported (they go unfilled for months, some for years);
• To reduce electricity outages — City Power has more than 420 power cuts a day;
• A dedicated Anti Land Invasion Unit;
• A dedicated municipal court to prosecute by-law infringements and to deal with cable theft;
• Support for vulnerable residents, including homeless people’s shelters;
• A food security plan with the private sector;
• Upgraded old-age homes and informal settlements;
• Billing queries to be resolved in seven days;
• 24-hour access to city services via a call centre, website, live portal and people’s centres (right now, the city does not answer its phone lines at all);
• Smart procurements apps to stop corruption (the city’s fleet management, the Johannesburg Property Company, the Johannesburg Roads Agency are among metro entities infiltrated by corruption networks);
• To cut queues at clinics and protect patients’ data;
• More nurses and more clinics closer to people who need them; and
• Drug treatment centres and rehabs run by the city.