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Opposition mayor elected in South African capital

Msimanga

Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | 

South Africa’s ruling ANC lost control of the capital Pretoria for the first time since the end of apartheid two decades ago, as an opposition councillor was elected mayor on Friday.

Solly Msimanga, 36, of the liberal centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA), was elected unopposed at a city council meeting following nationwide municipal ballots earlier this month.

ANC councillors, aggrieved at their loss of power, heckled Msimanga as he addressed the council.

“The people decided which way they want the city to go, and it was not the direction that it has been taking in the last… years,” Msimanga said in his inaugural speech.

It is the first time since the end of white-minority rule in 1994 that Pretoria is not headed by a mayor from the African National Congress (ANC).

The DA topped the August 3 municipal election in the capital, taking 93 of 214 council seats to the ANC’s 89.

Nationally, the party of Nelson Mandela suffered its worst result in 22 years in the municipal vote, garnering less than 54 percent of ballots cast — an eight percentage point drop from the last local poll in 2011.

The municipal elections were largely seen as a referendum on President Jacob Zuma, whose rule of Africa’s most advanced economy has been dogged by scandal.

Of the country’s six most populous cities, the ANC won an outright majority in only one: Durban, Zuma’s traditional stronghold.

 

‘No more suffering’ 

Msimanga vowed to end the patronage that he said had left the capital in the red.

“This city is technically bankrupt right now because of greediness and because of people who decided to put themselves first,” he said in a speech repeatedly drowned out by chants and singing from ANC councillors.

“No more will our people suffer under the hands of the ANC.”

He said the residents of the capital, also known as Tshwane, were “tired of corruption, they are tired of nepotism, they are tired of cronyism… they are tired of work only given to members of certain families and their friends”.

A staunch Christian and father of two, Msimanga started off in the DA’s marketing department, working his way up over the years.

In an interview with local Afrikaans-language daily Beeld, Msimanga said when he never dreamed of becoming a mayor as he was growing up in Pretoria’s Atteridgeville township, one of the hotbeds of pre-election riots.

“The dream of becoming mayor was as far-fetched as that of becoming an astronaut, so I never even considered it,” he said.

“Today I’m proud and grateful for the opportunity to be the leader of this city.”

Pretoria was the second major city the ANC lost.

On Thursday, the symbolically-named coastal town of Nelson Mandela Bay also went to the DA when its candidate Athol Trollip was elected mayor.

It remains unclear which way the mayoral vote will swing in the economic hub of Johannesburg, where the ANC won most councillor seats, but fell short of an outright majority.

The DA now runs three major cities, including tourism hub and legislative capital Cape Town.

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