Councillors in South Africa’s richest city elected its sixth mayor in four years as the nation’s governing party tests potential alliances before a general election next year.
Johannesburg council representatives appointed Kabelo Gwamanda of the minority Al Jama-ah party to succeed Thapelo Amad, who was forced to quit in April after a three-month stint in the job.
Gwamanda — whose party has less than 1% of positions in the 270-seat chamber — was elected with the backing of the governing African National Congress and the populist Economic Freedom Fighters, who both rejected the opposition Democratic Alliance’s candidate.
Major urban centres, including Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital, have been wracked by political instability since 2016, when the failure of political parties to win outright victories at the polls led to volatile coalitions.
The ANC is using the uncertainty to forge potential alliances to help the party retain control of Gauteng, the province and economic hub that surrounds the two cities.
According to the head of one of the nation’s biggest banks, the possibility of an ANC-EFF national alliance after next year’s election has increased investor uncertainty about the prospects for the nation’s economy.
The failure by Johannesburg lawmakers to appoint a stable council has coincided with increasing neglect of the city’s infrastructure, with residents being confronted with a growing amount of potholes on main roads, collapsed traffic lights and damaged drains and bridge railings being left unrepaired.
Next year’s ballot will come after what’s set to be the worst of a 15-year electricity crisis that’s preventing stronger economic growth needed to curb high unemployment and rampant inequality.
The party’s internal polling has painted a bleak picture of its electoral prospects, prompting it to begin mapping a framework for coalition governments.
At the ANC’s national elective conference in December, members were told that 55% of its supporters no longer believe in what the party has to say. In a worst-case scenario, its national support may dip to as low as 40%.
There are 49 political parties registered to take part in next year’s election. Independent candidates will also be allowed to contest provincial and national votes for the first time in 2024.