Destroying the new and the old: The removal of a mural at the Durban Botanic Gardens depicting South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy


The Durban Botanical Gardens was established in 1849 and is the oldest botanical garden in Africa. The Botanic Gardens curates major collections such as cycads, palms and orchids and, in the true tradition of botanic gardens, is several gardens within one.

The Durban Botanic Gardens Trust runs the Botanical Gardens.  The Trust is an independent and discretionary Trust, established in 1993 to support the Botanic Gardens with various maintenance and development projects including projects with a focus on education, biodiversity, heritage, horticulture, research and people, plants and culture.

This week a mural reflecting South Africa’s old and new flags was removed from the Durban Botanical Gardens after the Ethekwini Municipality received complaints that it was offensive and provocative. I have written before about the desirability of banning the old South African flag or not. In my view, a ban will be counterproductive. However, I understand the association of the old flag with Apartheid and I, therefore, personally discourages people from displaying it in public, other than for historical or artistic purposes.

The following newspaper article covered the removal of the mural:

Old SA flag removed from Durban Botanic Gardens

I live in Durban and visits the Botanical Gardens often. It’s a place of tranquillity and reflection, and it often hosts music concerts and other events. Many many people have therefore since it had been put up twenty years ago, walked past the mural at the entrance to the Gardens witnessing its magical transition from the old flag to the beautiful new South African flag. A powerful symbol of transition from the old to the new and symbolising change and renewal. Walking from the other side past the mural and towards the exit of the Botanic Gardens, only the new South African flag is visible unless one looked consciously back over your shoulder to then view the old South African flag. The artist producing the mural created this effect to symbolise the need to look forward rather than backward to a South Africa that belongs to all, Black and White.

Sadly because of a few complaints and the random act by an administrative functionary, Mr. Thembokosi Ngcobo who is the Head: Parks, Recreation and Culture at the Ethewkini Municipality, this beautiful mural is now lost forever depriving patrons and visitors to the Botanic Gardens of its powerful message and symbolism. He instructed that the mural be removed, and this was done in a matter of a day. On Twitter, he describes himself as a seasoned public administrator and political activist who tweeted the following after the mural was removed.


At the time of the complaints from a few people on Twitter about the mural, the Durban Botanical Gardens tweeted as follows about the history and background to the mural on display, which reveals that the mural was commissioned by the Ethekwini Municipality itself and one of its Public Museums, the KwaMuhle Museum. Mr. Ngcobo therefore not only destroyed something commissioned by his employer namely the Ethekwini Municipality but he did so without obtaining permission from the Municipal Council to do so!


The random act of Mr. Ngobo raises many serious questions that require answers from him and the Ethekwini Municipality. These are the following:

  • How can an appointed municipal official usurp the power to take what I suspect is in effect an illegal decision, without due process and consultation and that without anybody even batting an eyelid?
  • What evidence does Mr. Ncogo, have to say that municipal protocol was not followed when the mural was put up 20 years ago, especially seeing that the Tweet from the Botanical Gardens indicate that the Ethewkini Municipality itself commissioned it?
  • Were the Trust of the Botanical Gardens consulted on the matter? Looks like not because the IOL article linked above quotes an anonymous employee who says they received an instruction from the Municipality to remove it.
  • What about the patrons of the Botanical Gardens? Were they consulted or don’t they have a say in the matter?
  • What about the person who created the mural? Was he/she consulted and what about the irreparable damage done to his/her intellectual and artistic property?
  • Was the matter submitted to the Ethekwini Metro Council for a decision? Clearly not given the timeline involved.

This act is a clear example of abuse of power by an official who I suspect did not have the necessary authority or delegation to do so. It speaks to how most senior officials at municipalities these days are beholden to the political ideology of the ruling political party, rather than serving impartially all the citizens at large and without fear or favour.

My municipal career started back in the Apartheid days and functionaries of those times are often unfairly accused of having been dictatorial or not following due process. I worked for some 18 years at municipalities in a senior management capacity, and remember, for example, the hoops the Margate Borough and I as its Corporate Service Manager had to jump through to obtain the necessary permission to demolish the old Margate town hall to make space for much needed public parking. It took months of applications to bodies like the Heritage Council and consultation with the public. No usurping of power to do what we thought was in the public interest. We followed the due process in the interest of transparency and proper governance.

Given the wide definition of property in our Constitution, this act is but one example of how as citizens we can be robbed of it without compensation if the Constitution is amended as the African National Congress is planning to do. Let this serve as a warning to us all.

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ANC biggest loser in 2016 coalition outcome, DA biggest winner but EFF still holds the keys


Following the recent local government elections, I wrote the following four posts about the state of play in the 27 hung municipal councils where none of the political parties contesting the election in a municipality had a clear majority of the seats allocated:

The final coalition whistle blew on 25 out of the 27 hung councils who had their statutory meetings to elect mayors, speakers and other office bearers before the deadline of 14 days after the IEC declared and gazetted the final results. The 2 outstanding municipal councils who still need to elect their office bearers are the following:

  1. Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal where the municipal council have met three times and every time deadlocked with 20 votes to each coalition with the ANC (19) and 1 independent councillors voting together and the IFP (18), EFF (1) and DA (1) voting together -> ANC pushing for a by-election in Jozini
  2. Kgatelopele in the Northern Cape where The DA and KCF agreed to a coalition to form a majority government with 4 seats (2 each) out of the 7 seats on the council. One of the DA Councillors was however shot execution style before the council meeting and the council therefore have 1 vacancy currently and the DA/KCF coalition could not be formalised. An ANC member was subsequently arrested and charged for the murder of the DA Councillor -> ANC ward candidate charged with DA councillor’s murder

National coalition agreements reached

Following the elections, the major political parties scurried to secure coalitions in as many of the 27 hung councils as possible (see this article for an overview of what happened behind the scenes -> The six meetings that changed South African Politics ). In the end the DA formed a coalition on a national basis with a number of smaller parties such as COPE, the UDM, ACDP and the FF+ (DA enters into coalition with UDM, ACDP, IFP, COPE) whereas the EFF decided not to enter into any formal coalitions but to support the DA in voting for office bearers in municipalities where this will result in the ANC being unseated (EFF not going into coalition government with any other party ).

This basically outmanoeuvred the ANC nationally, leaving them very little room to negotiate and secure locally agreed coalitions in a small number of the 27 hung municipal councils. As things unfolded thereafter in 25 of the 27 hung municipal councils, bore testimony that in the 2016 coalitions stakes the ANC was the biggest loser, the DA the biggest winner but that the EFF is the party that still holds the key in many of these municipalities.

Local coalition developments

Despite the nationally agreed coalitions secured by the DA and the EFF’s approach to strategically support what they called the lesser of two evils namely the DA, at local level a few interesting developments still unfolded in the following 6 hung municipal councils:

  1. Mogale City in Gauteng where despite the election of DA Mayor, an ANC speaker was elected with speculation that the IFP voted with ANC for speaker and with DA for Mayor -> Mogale City elects a DA mayor & ANC speaker
  2. Rustenburg in the North West where the EFF had its best chance to govern a municipality but where they were left disappointed when the BCM voted with the ANC to deny them this opportunity ->  Newly elected ANC mayor shocked at result
  3. Modimolle/Mookgopong in Limpopo where 2 ANC members must have voted for a DA Mayor as the DA candidate received 17 votes in total as opposed to the 15 the DA expected (7 from DA, 6 from the EFF and 2 from the FF+) ->  ANC loses Modimolle mayor post to DA
  4. Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal where the ANC subsequently disputed the outcome of the mayoral election ->  ANC disputes outcome of Nquthu council meeting
  5. eDumbe in KwaZulu-Natal where two IFP Councillors voted together with ANC and against the wishes of their party and were subsequently expelled from the IFP ->  IFP in KZN expels two councillors for siding with ANC
  6. Kannaland in the Western Cape where ANC/DA coalition has the majority in Council although both parties have indicated that they did not officially form a coalition. The DA is busy investigating the fact that 2 DA Councillors voted with the ANC against the national leaderships wishes ->  DA to discipline Kannaland councillors

I have captured the outcome of the forming of coalitions for each of the 27 hung municipal councils in the table that’s attached at the end of this article. The information is as far as I could ascertain correct for each municipality however in a number of instances I had to make certain assumptions as all the information required was not always in the public domain. I also relied on the following valuable entry in Wikipedia that sets out in detail the outcome of the 2016 local government elections -> South African Municipal Elections, 2016 .

I then analysed the outcome across the 27 municipalities to establish certain trends as how the coalition stakes unfolded. The major findings are set out below.

Minority vs majority coalition governments

In 11 of the 27 hung municipalities (40.74%) a minority government were formed where the leading coalition did not have enough seats/votes to secure a majority government and where they will therefore have to rely on the ongoing support of another party that’s not part of the ruling coalition.

Of these 11 municipalities the EFF’s support is required in 6 minority governments led by the DA (Johannesburg, Tshwane, Mogale City, Metsimaholo, Thabazimbe and Modimolle/Mookgopong), support from the EFF in 4 minority governments led by the IFP (Endumeni, Nquthu, Abaqulusi and Mtubatuba) and the support of at least one IFP councillor in 1 ANC led minority government (eDumbe). The EFF therefore holds the keys in 10 of the 11 minority local governments which will require careful management of the coalition/EFF relationships in these municipalities.

In 14 of the 27 hung municipalities (51.85%) the leading coalition were able to form a majority government. This includes 8 DA led municipalities (Nelson Mandela Bay, Witzenberg, Hessequa, Knysna, Prince Albert, Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Ubuntu), 5 ANC led municipalities (Ekurhuleni, Rustenburg, Estcourt/Loskop, Bitou and Nama Khoi) and 1 ANC/DA led municipality (Kannaland).

In 10 of the 14 majority government municipalities (71.42%) the leading coalition has secured just enough seats/votes to secure an ordinary majority. This includes 6 DA led municipalities (Nelson Mandela Bay, Witzenberg, Hessequa, Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Ubuntu), 3 ANC led municipalities (Rustenburg, Bitou and Nama Khoi) and 1 ANC/DA led municipality (Kannaland). This means that if any by-election is to take place in any of these 10 municipalities over the next 5 years, the balance of power could potentially shift to another party/coalition.

In only 4 majority government municipalities does the leading coalition have a majority of either +1 or +2 (one or two more seats than what is required for an ordinary majority). This is for the ANC in Estcourt/Loskop and the DA in Prince Albert = +1 majority and ANC in Ekurhuleni and the DA in Knysna = +2 majority).

The remaining 2 hung municipalities (7.40%) is still to be decided (Jozini and Kgatelopele).

Ruling coalition does not include the party that got the most votes/seats in the election

In 12 of the 25 decided hung municipalities (48%) the leading coalition is a group of parties that do not include the party that received the most votes/seats in the election. The worst affected by this is the ANC with 10 out of the 12 municipalities where in 8 of them they conceded government of the municipality to the DA and 2 municipalities to the IFP. The 10 municipalities in which the ANC received the most votes/seats in the 2016 local government elections, but where they still failed to form a leading coalition government are the following (major party leading the coalition in brackets):

  1. Johannesburg (DA)
  2. Metsimaholo (DA)
  3. Mogale City (DA)
  4. Thabazimbe (DA)
  5. Modimolle/Mookgopong (DA)
  6. Endumeni (IFP)
  7. Abaqulusi (IFP)
  8. Hessequa (DA)
  9. Laingsburg (DA)
  10. Ubuntu (DA)

The DA lost 1 municipality (Bitou) where the received the most votes to the ANC and ICOSA 1 municipality (Kannaland) to an ANC/DA coalition.

The 10 municipalities lost by the ANC is a direct consequence of their failure to reach formal coalitions at national level with any of the key political parties.

Change in leading party

The following table reflects the number of hung municipal councils where there was a change in the leading party in 2016 compared to the 2011 local government elections. The list contains only 23 hung municipalities because two newly demarcated municipalities (Modimolle/Mookgopong and Estcourt/Loskop) did not exist in 2011 and 2 hung municipalities still needs to be decided (Jozini and Kgatelopele):


The table indicates that the ANC is the biggest loser having lost 78% of the 14 hung council municipalities where a different party is leading compared to 2011.


The above analysis supports the notion that in the 2016 coalitions stakes the ANC was the biggest loser, the DA the biggest winner but that the EFF is the party that still holds the key in many of these municipalities.

Managing the coalitions in the 27 municipalities is going to require extraordinary wisdom, diplomacy and patience given the narrow majority margins in most of these municipalities and the fact that the leading coalitions in 10 of these municipalities will require the ongoing support of the EFF -> Difficulties of forming and maintaining coalitions

Summary table

The attached PDF document summarises the coalition outcomes in all of the 27 hung local municipalities and were used to conduct the analysis set out in this post.

2016 Coalition outcomes for 27 hung municipalities

Coalition Fever: An Overview of the Metro Picture


Following the 2016 local elections, South Africa is gripped with coalition fever, with 27 municipalities having hung councils where no one political party has more than 50% of the allocated seats.

This scenario was foreseen by a number of political commentators as far back as March 2015. See for example Brave yourself for a new era of coalition politics & 2016: Big three parties and the big four battlegrounds .

Forming coalitions is an exercise in real politics ( politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises) and its therefore dangerous to predict the outcome of coalition negotiations beforehand. Relying on what is speculated in the mainstream media is especially fraught with danger as evidenced in this article looking at what transpired in 2006 in Cape Town when parties were also faced with a hung council scenario Anatomy of a coalition coup: Are there lessons ahead of the August election?

In this series of blog posts I will nevertheless look at the possible coalitions in each of the 27 municipalities starting with the Metros, followed by a second posts looking at the situation in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West Provinces, followed by a third post looking at KwaZulu-Natal and a last post looking at the Western and Northern Cape Provinces

Of the four Metros where coalitions will be required, three are in Gauteng – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni and one in the Eastern Cape namely Nelson Mandela Bay.



The City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality is located in the Gauteng province. Johannesburg is the most advanced commercial city in Africa and the engine room of the South African and regional economy. It is a city with a unique, African character, world-class infrastructure in the fields of telecommunications, transportation, water and power, and with globally-competitive health care and educational facilities. However, the city is also one of contrasts – home to both wealthy and poor, residents and refugees, global corporations and emerging enterprises.

The demographics of Johannesburg indicate a large and ethnically diverse metropolitan area. As the largest city in South Africa, its population is defined by a long history of local and international migration. Johannesburg is home to more than 4,4 million people, accounting for about 36% of Gauteng’s population and 8% of the national population.


The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party

2011 % vote

2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC  58.56%  44.55%  -14.05%
 DA  34.62%  38.37%  +3.75%
 EFF  – 11.09% +11.09%


  • Total seats: 270
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 136
  • Seat allocation: ANC 121 seats, DA 104, EFF 30 & other smaller parties 15 seats
  • Scenario: The ANC short 15 seats for a majority and the DA 32 seats
  • Possible coalitions: The ANC could partner with the DA,  EFF or alternatively it will have to look at all the smaller parties to join it in a coalition. These parties include the IFP, AIC, FF+, ACDP, COPE, PA and ALJAMA of which the IFP holds the most seats namely 5. The DA could partner with the EFF but will require 2 more seats from any of the smaller parties.


A DA (121 seats), EFF (30 seats) and IFP (5 seats) coalition looks like the most likely outcome however in the game of coalitions it can work out differently in the end.

See also -> Why the DA is likely to win the coalition war in Johannesburg




The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality is situated in the Gauteng province and Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. It has merged with the Metsweding District, which was a consequence of the Gauteng Global City Region Strategy to reduce the number of municipalities in Gauteng to at least four by 2016. The new City of Tshwane is now the single-largest metropolitan municipality in the country, comprising seven regions, 105 wards and 210 councillors.

Pretoria has the second-largest number of embassies in the world after Washington DC. Many embassies thus call this city their home. The Union Buildings house the administrative hub of the country and have also been the setting for the presidential inaugurations of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and the incumbent South African president, Jacob Zuma.


The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party

2011 % vote

2016 % vote % Shift
 DA 38.65%  43.15% +4.5%
 ANC  55.32% 41.25%  -14.07%
 EFF  –  11.63%  +11.63%


  • Total seats: 214
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 108
  • Seat allocation: DA 93 seats, ANC 89, EFF 25, FF+ 4 and 1 seat each for ACDP, COPE & PAC.
  • Scenario: The DA short 15 seats and the ANC 19.
  • Possible coalitions: The only available option for the ANC is a coalition with the DA or EFF. The DA’s options are also limited to either the ANC or EFF as the smaller parties combined have too few seats to make up a majority in the Metro.


In Tshwane, expect a DA and EFF and possibly also the smaller party coalition, with the DA bringing in the smaller parties to counterbalance the EFF but also given the need for a national strategic view.



City of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality covers an extensive area from Germiston in the west to Springs and Nigel in the east. The former administrations of the nine towns in the former East Rand were amalgamated into the metropolitan municipality, along with the Khayalami Metropolitan Council and the Eastern Gauteng Services Council. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the province, and the country.

The economy in the region is larger and more diverse than that of many small countries in Africa. It accounts for nearly a quarter of Gauteng’s economy, which in turn contributes over a third of the national Gross Domestic Product. Many of the factories for production of goods and commodities are located in Ekurhuleni, often referred to as ‘Africa’s Workshop’.


The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties are indicated in the table below:

Political Party

2011 % vote

2016 % vote % Shift
 ANC 61.63% 48.64%  -12.99%
 DA 30.29% 34.15% +3.86%
EFF 11.23%  +11.23%


  • Total seats: 224
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 113
  • Seat allocation: ANC 109 seats, DA 77, EFF 25, AIC 4, IFP & FF+ 2 each followed by 1 each for the ACDP, PAC, PA, COPE & IRASA
  • Scenario: The ANC short 4 seats for a majority and the DA 36 seats.
  • Possible coalitions: The DA will have to work with the EFF and obtain at least 11 seats from the other 7 smaller parties who together holds 13 seats. The ANC shorts only 4 seats and can look at a coalition with the DA, EFF or more likely a combination of the smaller parties.


The most likely outcome is an ANC coalition with the smaller parties perhaps the AIC and/or IFP.

See also -> Coalition politics: A reality check



Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality is a Category A municipality, established on 5 December 2000. Nelson Mandela Bay was the first city in South Africa to establish a fully integrated democratic local authority and the only city in the world named after Nelson Mandela, who was born and spent his formative years in the Eastern Cape. Nelson Mandela Bay is a major seaport and automotive manufacturing centre located on the south-eastern coast of Africa. It is the economic powerhouse of the Eastern Cape province and one of six metropolitan areas in South Africa.


The 2016 election result is depicted in the picture above. The voter shift from the 2011 election for the three major parties is indicated in the table below:

Political Party

2011 % vote

2016 % vote % Shift
 DA 40.13% 47.71% +6.58%
 ANC 51.91% 40.92%  -10.99%
 EFF 5.12% +5.12%


  • Total seats: 120
  • Minimum seats for a majority: 61
  • Seat allocation: DA 57 seats, ANC 50, EFF 6, UDM 2 and 1 seat each for AIC, PA, COPE, ACDP & UFEC
  • Scenario: The DA short 4 seats for a majority and the ANC 11.
  • Possible coalitions: The DA can enter into a coalition with the EFF or if it so chooses any combination of the smaller parties who together holds 7 seats to make up the shortfall of 4 seats. The ANC have no option but to court the DA or EFF as well as obtain 5 more seats from any combination of the smaller parties if they partner with the EFF.


The DA could work with only the smaller parties but a DA and EFF coalition is most likely given the national picture where the DA requires the support of the EFF in other hung council municipalities.


In the next post I will look at the situation in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West Provinces.