New Tshwane mayor moots government of local unity

Newly-elected Tshwane mayor and former speaker, Cope’s Dr Murunwa Makwarela, will approach parties in the multi-party coalition that “kicked him out” when he appoints his executive.

After his shock election on February 28 – which ended the reign of the multi-party coalition of the DA, FF+, ActionSA, IFP and ACDP – Makwarela said the ANC and EFF that supported his election have given him the freedom to appoint the mayoral committee as he sees fit.

Makwarela, a genetic engineer by training and former Tshwane official, beat the DA’s Cilliers Brink by 112 votes against 101. This came as a surprise, as the multi-party coalition has had the majority of seats in the council since the municipal elections in November 2021.

The position became vacant after the resignation of Randall Williams on February 13, following pressure after the Auditor-General gave the council an adverse audit opinion. Still outstanding is an investigation into Williams’ alleged unlawful interference in the city administration, to bulldoze through an unsolicited bid by the Kratos consortium to take over the city’s unused power stations at Rooiwal and Pretoria-West.

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After the council meeting Brink, who resigned his seat in the National Assembly to contest the mayoral position, said it was clear that some councillors from coalition parties broke ranks by voting for Makwarela.

On behalf of the coalition Dr Corne Mulder (FF+) blamed the loss on bribery.

“The election of mayors and speakers under the secret ballot required in legislation has created a culture of bribery in municipal councils. This coalition condemns, in the harshest terms, those councillors who accept election on the back of party’s (sic) campaigning for change only to assist the ANC and EFF to get elected against the will of the residents of Tshwane.”

He said all parties within the coalition will work to identify those who sold out the residents of Tshwane and the coalition. “These councillors will be removed and replaced with urgency ahead of a motion of no confidence that will be tabled to remove Makwarela from his ill-gotten office.”

This does not bode well for any offer by Makwarela to the coalition or its member parties and comes after they threatened to propose a motion of no confidence in him as speaker when he refused to schedule the special council meeting to elect the mayor earlier. This was aimed at adopting an adjustment budget before February 28, to avoid interference by the provincial government following a threat by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi (ANC).

Makwarela however pointed out that he was acting in compliance with the law and won’t bow to pressure. City manager Johann Mettler supported his decision based on applicable legislation.

Much on the agenda

The council is expected to elect a new speaker by 2 March, when Makwarela is also expected to announce his mayoral committee.

The new city leadership now has until the end of March to adopt an adjustment budget, after Mettler got an extension from the National Treasury.

It must also see that the city’s annual report is finalised, after a draft version of the report of the audit and performance committee was earlier attached to the annual report that was approved by council in January. This requires the new mayoral committee to first adopt the correct one and then for council to rescind its earlier adoption of the report and redo it with the final and signed version.

The new leadership has a lot of work to do to tighten internal controls and improve the city’s finances.

Tshwane owes Eskom more than R1 billion and is battling to collect its consumer debt every month.

This while the multi-party coalition aims to topple Makwarela and those who supported him.