The ANC says it has been advised not to legally challenge the decision to postpone Thursday’s Johannesburg council meeting meant to elect a new mayor.
As a result, the party won’t go to court to fight the DA speaker’s decision.
The party was considering launching a legal challenge, a move its allies said could have serious consequences.
“Honestly if this thing is sent to the courts, the DA will use it as an excuse. Then we will only revisit the issue of electing a new mayor in March, or even later. The court route will take time,” said a councillor from one of the ANC’s partners in council, News24 reported.
The sitting aimed at electing Herman Mashaba’s replacement ended when council speaker Vasco Da Gama told councillors he thought it best to postpone it to December 4, in order to seek a legal opinion over what constitutes a “majority.”
With 270 seats in the Johannesburg Council, it was thought that a candidate who received 136 votes or more would automatically win the election on the “50 + 1” rule – any majority, no matter how small, takes control based on this principle.
The council regulations, which define a majority as 50% + 1, is said to be at odds with the Municipal Structure Act, which stipulates that questions before a municipal council must be decided by a majority of the votes cast.
The move was triggered by a question from the EFF caucus in council, enquiring about the definition of the word “majority.”
“They played us. We expected them to try and disrupt the sitting, but to play us like this, I must admit it was a smart move on the EFF’s part,” the councillor conceded.
The question was posed following back and forth discussions between ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu.
ANC acting spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party was advised the DA could “drag the case while in office.”
“We should not go to court cause the 4th or 5th [of December] is [in] a week. Going to court can mean they can postpone which means it can be heard in April or May and they will remain in office. It’s not in our best interest to go to court,” Legoete reportedly said.
The speaker’s own future appears be on the line, as some councillors had hoped a motion of no confidence against Da Gama would have followed the election of a mayor.
It’s understood that this was part of the agenda and is likely to remain an issue when council again attempts to elect a mayor next week.
In a motivation for the motion, News24 reported that Da Gama is accused of failing to safeguard the independence of council, to ensure proper public participation, and properly manage relationships between the different political parties in council.
Next week’s session is likely to be a heated one, with parties already discussing possible scenarios.
The ANC is expected to also consult with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) to find out if it is possible for it to appoint a presiding officer in the event that the DA walks out of council.
“If we reach quorum and there are 136 councillors in the room, we must continue and elect a mayor without the DA. The ANC must find out how this can be done,” an insider said.
Three key candidates are contesting the position of Johannesburg Mayor.
The ANC’s Geoff Makhubo is up against the DA’s Funzela Ngobeni and Musa Novela from the EFF.
The ANC has 121 seats, the DA 104 and the EFF 30 in the Johannesburg Council.