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Doctor sets her sights on being Jozi mayor



If elected, Dr Mpho Phalatse, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) mayoral candidate for the City of Johannesburg, would be the first female executive mayor of Johannesburg – the country’s economic hub.

The DA’s decision to choose Phalatse, a medical doctor, has been applauded by many who say she is a hardworking woman of integrity. However, it has also been met with some anger, all because she once publicly declared her support for Israel.

DA leader John Steenhuisen announced his list of mayoral candidates for the upcoming local government elections earlier this week.

Member of the provincial legislature, Jack Bloom, the DA’s shadow minister of health, told the SA Jewish Report, “Mpho is highly principled, and dedicated to making a real difference in people’s lives. She has achieved as a medical doctor and also when she was the MMC [Member of the Mayoral Committee] in charge of health and social development. She had great success in extending the operating hours of clinics. She will strive for better services, and won’t tolerate any corruption.”

Phalatse was suspended in 2018 from her post as MMC for health and social development pending an investigation after publicly expressing support for Israel during a South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) conference in June 2018. It caused outrage amongst the anti-Israel lobby.

Following a post on social media this week by SAFI congratulating her on her nomination, anti-Israel organisation Africa4Palestine, replied by posting a warning to its followers on Facebook.

“Spoiler alert!!!” the post said. “Apartheid Israel sympathiser running for mayor in Johannesburg South Africa is approaching local government elections – voters, take note!!”

Phalatse told the SA Jewish Report this week that it was a contentious issue, and acknowledged that there were those who were aggrieved. “Plans are being made to engage with all parties on the issue. The DA believes in a two-state solution. We believe in human rights for all and for peaceful coexistence,” she said.

In 2018, Phalatse was a MMC in Herman Mashaba’s DA-led government in the City of Johannesburg before the African National Congress (ANC) took back the mayorship.

She was reinstated to her position after an investigation found no wrongdoing on her part and after she made a public apology to the people of Johannesburg for the remarks made at the conference, which she said were taken out of context.

At the conference, Phalatse called herself and the City of Johannesburg a “friend” of Israel. Her statement, spread on social media, subsequently led to the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters calling for her immediate dismissal.

The investigation found that she didn’t contravene the DA’s policy position on its “commitment to a two-state solution in which a secure and prosperous Israel coexists peacefully alongside a secure and prosperous Palestine”.

She apologised to the residents of Johannesburg for remarks which caused “confusion and hurt” to some. She went on to say that she recognised that the conflict in the Middle East was a “challenging and sensitive subject which, if not approached with the required consideration, causes acrimony in our diverse society”.

Referring to the part of her address circulated on social media, Phalatse said listeners weren’t afforded the full context of her statement, and were offended as a result.

She pointed out that the unpublicised component of her speech had addressed “the commitment of the DA and our government to achieving freedom, fairness, opportunity, and diversity in Johannesburg”, a qualifier which she maintained placed her words in the correct context.

Mashaba, who she may end up facing in the battle for Johannesburg, said at the time that Phalatse had proven to be a high-performing MMC. “Her leadership of her departments has been instrumental in the achievement of extended operating hours at city clinics and the rollout of our substance-abuse facilities‚” he said.

“Residents of the City of Johannesburg‚ especially those in need of primary healthcare and social services‚ would be best served by the return of MMC Phalatse, and affording her the opportunity to contribute to a healthier and more socially cohesive city.”

SAFI welcomed the news of Phalatse’s appointment as the DA mayoral candidate.

Spokesman Bafana Modise told the SA Jewish Report, “Dr Phalatse, along with many other candidates from across the political spectrum, has a pro-Israel and pro-peace stance, which is in line with the viewpoints of millions of South Africans who support the Jewish state.”

“Phalatse has a noteworthy history and commitment to working for the City of Johannesburg and has incentivised many innovative projects in her position as MMC of health and social development. The decision to appoint Dr Phalatse as their mayoral candidate shows there is a voice for Israel supporters in political positions, and speaks to the very strength of our democracy,” he said.

Phalatse said she was excited by her nomination. “I’m excited about what this means for the residents of the City of Johannesburg. The city is in a state of decay, it needs urgent intervention to get back to the kind of city it’s supposed to be as the economic hub, not only of South Africa, but the African continent.”

Asked about her plans should she be elected mayor, she said, “It’s important to understand where the city is when you make this call. So much has declined in terms of infrastructure and service delivery, things like electricity, water, roads, traffic lights, and transport. This will be our starting point – to get the basics right.”

She said it was imperative to improve internet and fibre, especially in disadvantaged communities, during the COVID-19 pandemic so that workers and students could work remotely and not have their lives interrupted.

She said she was excited to bring to the office of the mayor her 15 years of experience working in the public service, including three working as MMC for health and social development in Johannesburg.

“The city deserves so much better. I’m ready for the challenge,” she said.

The ANC this week said regional and provincial structures would nominate three mayoral candidates, and they would be interviewed and screened before the party announced its candidates. ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said this week that the party had submitted its candidates on time, but wouldn’t release the names yet.

Steenhuisen selected Geordin Hill-Lewis as the candidate to take over the reins from Cape Town mayor Dan Plato.

The DA chose former spokesperson and Deputy Federal Chairperson Refiloe Nt’sekhe as its candidate for mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, while retaining its mayor in the City of Tshwane, Randall Williams, as well as Nqaba Bhanga in Nelson Mandela Bay.

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