LIVE: Dr Mpho Phalatse briefs the public on a plan to save Johannesburg

Dear South Africans, and in particular, the residents of Johannesburg,

I am Dr Mpho Phalatse, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and I’d like to share with you my views on the recent developments in the Johannesburg City Council, and the way forward for our city.

I introduced myself as Johannesburg’s Mayor – despite the council having appointed an ANC Mayor in my place last week Friday – because I believe that sitting was a sham, and the decisions taken there unlawful.

I believe a court will soon confirm this view.

As far as I’m concerned, I still have a duty of service to the residents of Johannesburg – a duty which I intend to perform to the best of my ability.

I love this great city, and I love its people. My term of office, to date, has been both the hardest and the most rewarding time of my life, and I know we’ve made a positive difference here.

There is no way that I will back down now, at the first sign of adversity at the hands of a takeover by a corrupt few. I made promises to the people of Joburg before last year’s elections, and I repeated those promises when I took office in January.

I have every intention of keeping my promises.

The recent events in the Johannesburg Council have dealt a major blow to the progress we have made here since the beginning of the year.

Turning Johannesburg around after decades of corruption and mismanagement was never going to be quick or easy, but I am proud to say that our coalition government has made great strides in a very short time.

From the R2.8 billion invested in the city’s water infrastructure and the 157% increase in the arrest of cable thieves, to the 1,800 new JMPD officers deployed in the inner city, we have already made a visible difference across the city.

But on Friday, that was all brought to a halt when the ANC was let back into office by people who couldn’t care less about the fate of Johannesburg. People for whom self-advancement trumps everything else.

On Friday, the newly elected Cope Speaker wasted no time in effecting what can only be described as an unlawful council coup.

And since then, Colleen Makhubele and others have been trying to score mileage out of this unlawful council coup, or disguise the fact that they were complicit in handing Johannesburg back to the ANC. They have been working hard to create a false narrative around these events.

There is no rift in our party.

I have the full backing of the party and its national leadership. And we have always remained united in our mission, which is to offer Johannesburg’s 6 million residents a government that truly cares for them.

Our work here, to bring dignity to Johannesburg’s vulnerable and neglected communities, and to restore this city to its rightful place as this continent’s beating economic heart, has only just begun.

It is a pity that some, who have abandoned the coalition, have now given power back to the ANC. This is not what their voters wanted, and I call upon them to reconsider. They have shown that a vote for parties that let us down is actually a vote for the ANC.

I will not allow the coalition of corruption to simply waltz back in and undo everything we’ve accomplished here.

Some have said, “why bother?” Some have accused me of wanting to keep power. Not so. For me, it is about serving the people, not power.

Firstly, we need to fight because of principle: unlawful acts must not go unchallenged. Secondly, the power-grabbers are not for the people of Johannesburg. Actually, this is not my fight, this is your fight.

I will continue to fight with and for the people of Johannesburg, and the next round of that fight is our court application to have last Friday’s sham council sitting declared unlawful.

The sitting, rushed through by the new Speaker, Colleen Makhubele, in order to vote me out of office before a court could stop her, was irregular and unlawful and we are confident that the court ruling will confirm this.

We are also asking the court to set aside all decisions taken by the ANC’s Dada Morero since he was appointed Mayor. We hope to have that ruling within a week.

And then I want to get back to work, because every day wasted on these cynical plots and schemes is a day we could have spent fixing something in this broken city.

We have so much to do and we really cannot afford this distraction.

Now, I know some of you are thinking: Why could the DA not just relent, this once, and give in to the demands of the parties who were calling for a new Speaker to be elected from another party, despite the stipulations of a coalition agreement they all signed?

I have been asked that question in many interviews these past few weeks. And the answer is simple. We signed a coalition agreement which makes provision for a review once the original agreement had been tested.

While the DA agrees to that, we believe that such a review should not happen in the middle of a crisis, with time constraints and an adversarial psychological climate.

Our parties spent weeks, sometimes even months, ironing out details that everyone agreed on, including the allocation of positions. We then signed this agreement together and made it publicly available. Equally, any review that is embarked on should be afforded the same indulgence.

Our residents deserve stability, and we believe that sporadic deviations from the signed coalition agreement, outside of the agreed-upon framework, would set the tone for an unstable political tenure.

Our detractors will now have you believe that this is evidence of arrogance – an unwillingness to compromise or share power in a coalition.

But these accusations are nothing but a smokescreen designed to distract from what’s really going on: The return to power of a corrupt ANC syndicate, which now once again has its hands on the country’s biggest municipal budget.

Let’s also not forget that this is not the first time they’ve used this very tactic. When the DA-led coalition was ousted in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2018 to make way for the coalition of corruption, the exact same smokescreen was used: “The DA is arrogant and therefore we must return the City to the thieves.”

So let me say this once more: Sticking to a signed coalition agreement is not arrogance. It is a critical part of honouring your duty to the people who placed their trust in you through their votes.

These events in Johannesburg may be frustrating, but they’re not unsurprising.

We have often warned in the past that the ANC will not willingly give up access to its biggest cash cow: the R77.7 billion City of Johannesburg budget.

And we know from experience elsewhere that they are more than willing to buy the help of smaller parties or rogue individuals when the margins are close and they only need a few votes.

That is why, if you intend to get rid of the ANC with your vote, you have to know and trust where your vote will ultimately end up.

I am sorry if yours was one of the many votes betrayed when Johannesburg was handed back to the ANC. If you voted against the ANC, only to have your vote now used to return them to power, you have every right to feel aggrieved.

But let this be a learning moment. Take note of which parties can be trusted to stick to their word and which ones will turn on a whim or on the promise of a better personal deal.

I assure you, the DA and I will never betray your trust. Everything that drove us to want to govern in Johannesburg is still there and still valid.

I love this city more than ever before, and I am 100% committed to finishing the job I started here.

In these times of loadshedding you may feel powerless. You are not. You have power. Your voice is your power. You can speak out against this unlawful hijacking of our democracy.

If what you want for Johannesburg is a continuation of our Golden Start, please let your voice be heard. Support us on social media. Support us on radio stations and in the press.

Use the hashtag #HandsOffJoburg to claim Johannesburg as your city and to tell the corrupt cabal that they are not welcome here.

I too will be doing my part by seeing this court battle through.

I’ve said before, and I still maintain, that a court victory alone will not see the city restored to a trusted government. There is a political battle to be fought too. A battle to appeal to the senses of political parties who genuinely care about our city and its residents.

Parties whose voters tasked them with ensuring that the ANC does not get its hands on their rates and taxes.

These parties have an obligation to their voters. A duty to rise above party politics, to choose to enter the fight, joining hands with others to keep the ANC out.

I will be reaching out even as we prepare for the court battle. Crucial conversations must be had, but at the centre of these should be our residents – the reason we are all here.

Coalition governance is not easy. However we have no option but to make it work. We cannot give up now. We either make this coalition work, or we give the ANC a license to loot.

I look forward to being part of a coalition of like-minded political parties, and to serving you, the residents of Johannesburg, playing my part in rebuilding this incredible city.

Thank you.

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Dr Mpho Phalatse

Dr Mpho Phalatse is DA Johannesburg Leader, in addition to being a medical doctor.

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