Five things you need to know about new Joburg speaker Margaret Arnolds

21 November 2023 - 20:11
Newly elected City of Joburg council speaker Margaret Arnolds is no stranger to the City of Joburg leadership and aims to remain on top.
Image: CoJ/X Newly elected City of Joburg council speaker Margaret Arnolds is no stranger to the City of Joburg leadership and aims to remain on top.

Margaret Arnolds is the third speaker of the City of Joburg council in the last two years but is confident the coalition government is stable enough to enable her to hold the position longer than her predecessors.

Arnolds, from the African Independent Congress (AIC), which has only two seats in council, was elected unopposed as speaker of the metro on Monday. She takes over from Colleen Makhubele. Arnolds received support from the ANC, EFF and PA coalition government and other minority parties in holding the top position.

Here are five things to know about Arnolds: 

Eldorado Park GBV activist

Arnolds, who hails from Eldorado Park, south of Joburg, is no stranger to the metro leadership. She was the MMC for community development and has also served as MMC for environment & infrastructure services before taking on the speaker role.

Arnolds is known as a gender-based violence (GBV) activist in her community and rose through the political ranks as an activist. In her acceptance speech she described her uncontested election as “God’s plan”.

“I want to thank my heavenly father for giving me this position. Lord, your time is not my time. You have plans for me and you have made your plans,” she said.

Storm on the doorstep of speaker election

While Arnolds has enjoyed applause from the coalition government partners for her election, the DA was not so happy about it. DA councillor Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku described the speaker election council meeting on Monday as a waste of money. She said the party would forge ahead with plans to get the council dissolved. 

Arnolds, speaking to the media shortly after her election, was confident the council would not be dissolved. She said she expected to preside over the DA's motion proposing for the council to be dissolved by next week.

“I will preside over the motion, but the issue is that the DA [has] two-thirds of council votes and they do have that right now. The coalition governing now has the majority of votes.”

Leading minority bloc and ousting DA leadership

“The coalition is definitely sticking together. There is no reason to say that we are falling apart. We are stronger together. I think we are stabilising the council,” Arnolds said, while defending the coalition government amid backlash on leadership instability.

Arnolds in an interview on eNCA said she established the minority bloc to help small parties have a voice in council.

“I started the minority opposition bloc. It grew in strength and that is how we took out former speaker Vasco da Gama and former mayor Mpho Phalatse.” 

Last year, Arnolds tabled a motion of confidence against Phalatse but later withdrew it. 

Hopes of unifying 18-party council 

The Joburg metro council has 18 political parties, and has had different coalition partnerships heading the metro, some of which collapsed. Arnolds believes she can be a unifier of the council. 

“I do believe that I can make a difference. I will have an open-door policy. I am not going to be the speaker of a few parties. I will be the speaker of all 270 councillors.” 

'She has lots of experience' – Makhubele

Former speaker Makhubele has given Arnolds her blessings and applauded her election.

“I have worked very well with her and she has lots of experience. I am for women leaders, and I think she will do very well in that position. Her time has indeed come for it,” she said.