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politics

South African Opposition Parties at Odds Over Mayoral Post

Updated on

South African Opposition Parties at Odds Over Mayoral Post

  • Democratic Alliance’s control of capital is under threat
  • DA, EFF must agree to disagree, Tshwane Mayor Mokgalapa says

South Africa’s two biggest opposition parties have locked horns over who should be the mayor of the nation’s capital, placing at risk an informal accord that saw them wrest control of the major cities away from the ruling African National Congress.

The mayor of South Africa’s Tshwane municipality, which includes the capital, Pretoria, has come from the ranks of the Democratic Alliance since the ANC lost its outright majority there in municipal elections in 2016. Now the Economic Freedom Fighters, which voted for the main opposition’s candidate, wants the post itself in exchange for continuing to support the DA mayor in Johannesburg, the economic hub -- a demand the DA doesn’t appear prepared to meet.

“We have no formal agreement with the EFF,” Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa said in an interview in Pretoria on Tuesday. “So we agree to disagree.”

While the EFF has yet to indicate whether it will enlist the support of the ANC to topple Mokgalapa, it showed its willingness to work with the ruling party when they teamed up to vote out the DA mayor in the southern Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in August. Mokgalapa declined to say whether the EFF will be offered key posts in Tshwane in exchange for its continued support.

Financial Woes

Tshwane’s current liabilities exceeded its assets by 2.2 billion rand ($154 million) at the end of June last year, and there was material uncertainty about its ability to continue operating without financial assistance, South Africa’s Auditor-General said in a report released on Wednesday.

The municipality, which is home to more than 3 million people, doesn’t expect to be able to recover 8.2 billion rand it was owed for electricity and other services at the end of the financial year. That equates to 70.9% of the total amount outstanding, the highest proportion of the country’s seven main metropolitan areas, according to the report.

The mayor said his administration is facing a “serious challenge” getting residents to pay, with high levels of poverty and unemployment making it difficult for them to afford services.

“We are looking at exploring means and ways to confront the non-payment culture,” he said. “We have to create jobs so they can afford to pay. We are looking at incentives like early-bird payment, where people can get a little bit of a discount. It is a work in progress.”

The city has acted decisively in tackling corruption, canceling irregular contracts and establishing a new panel to probe financial misconduct by senior managers, according to Mokgalapa. The next step will be to hold those responsible for misappropriating funds to account and to recoup the money in collaboration with the police and the National Prosecuting Authority, he said.

Read more
South Africa Opposition DA’s Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Ousted

— With assistance by Paul Vecchiatto, and Jacqueline Mackenzie

(Updates with report on state of capital’s finances in fifth paragraph.)