[Opinion] Pyrrhic victory for the DA: A leaf out of their book for the ANC

Makone Maja | 27 Oct, 2022
The precedent says: accept court decisions when they favour us, snub them when they don’t.

The DA’s Dr Mpho Phalatse has been reinstated as the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg and whilst the DA is celebrating this as a victory, it is the sort of victory that is won by incurring terrible losses.

The Johannesburg High Court granted the relief sought by the DA and Dr Phalatse in their case against her removal as mayor of Johannesburg on 25 October 2022. Initially the court had rejected the DA’s urgent application to interdict the council meeting where the vote of the motion of no confidence against Dr Phalatse was to take place, striking the matter off the roll for lack of urgency.

In the judgement, the court set aside the decision of the council and found that her removal was unlawful and unconstitutional due to various procedural irregularities effected by Colleen Makhubela, the newly elected speaker who was only sworn in some 48 hours prior to the vote. The motion of no confidence was unlawfully passed on 29 September 2022 through an extraordinary meeting called with a 16-hour notice to council members. Where the prescribed 7 members’ quorum is required for such tabling, the freshly-elected Makhubela proceeded with only 6 members, strong-arming the DA-led coalition government out of power and removing Phalatse as mayor.

The court ruled in favour of Phalatse and the DA on various grounds, including that the 16-hour notice was unreasonable, and affirmed the meeting was unlawful as it was not quorate. It set aside all the decisions made by the unlawfully elected mayor, Dada Morero, who has since indicated that he will step aside from the position to allow Dr Phalatse back her reins.

Enormous cost

During her ousting from the position, she defiantly held on to the title of mayor, as her official and verified twitter account bio continued to read “Executive Mayor of Johannesburg” and her subsequent tweets misrepresented her as such. Her actions may accrue an enormous cost in the precedent of challenging allegations of unlawful elections, not only for the residents of Johannesburg, but for South Africa as a whole.

News24 reported that Morero, in a since-retracted Facebook post, had accepted his fate, sharing the message with his 4.6k followers; “I have stepped aside officially as the executive mayor. We will update you on the progress”. He then backtracked, saying this instead: “Good afternoon Joburgers! I hereby wish to retract the earlier statement. The lawyers of the speaker are still studying the judgment. We will update you on the progress after consultation”.

The DA-led coalition is now back to run Jozi, albeit for a short while. The Patriotic Alliance (PA) who caused her removal has made it clear that it has every intention of voting with the ANC coalition again should the court rule in favour of the DA, as it has so done. The PA heavily criticised the DA for its refusal to accept the motion, pointing out the consequences of enabling a precedent for the ANC to not concede a potential loss come the 2024 national elections.

Refusal

The refusal by Dr Phalatse to step down whilst the law took its course calls into question her willingness to circumvent the law when political expediency permits. This was the very law she relied on after the unlawful dispossession of her mayoral candidacy: the rule of law she touted in her victory speech.

The DA’s challenge to the motion was likely intended to buy the party time to garner more votes and strengthen the coalition for when the vote of no confidence was revisited legally. And although it is well within the DA’s rights to challenge the constitutionality of the vote, the execution was poor and may backfire on a much higher scale, such as in national elections.

Dr Phalatse and the DA have now set a bad precedent by not accepting an election loss and continuing to claim for her the title of mayor long after her ousting. The precedent says: accept court decisions when they favour us, snub them when they don’t.

Article originally appeared here.

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