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The Speaker

VascoDaGamaCouncil Speaker Vasco Da Gama

Cllr Vasco da Gama was elected as the new Speaker of the Johannesburg Council. He served as caucus leader of the Democratic Alliance and as National Chairperson of the National Association of DA Councillors. Speaking after his election Cllr Da Gama said he is looking forward to work together with councillors, political leaders, communities and civil society to “create a better life for all” in the City.

Born into a mixed-race family – his father was of Portuguese descent and his grandmother had Irish and Tsonga roots – apartheid tore apart the family of the new Speaker of Council for the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Vasco da Gama, at an early age.

Because Da Gama and his two siblings were classified coloured and his mother black, his family was chased out of their hometown, Louis Trichardt, (now Makhado) in Limpopo in terms of the Group Areas Act. His mother came to Johannesburg, leaving his father to singlehandedly raise them.

After completing Standard 8 (Grade 10), Da Gama joined his mother in Alexandra and settled at 72-2nd Avenue. He worked for four years as a diesel mechanic before moving to Reliable Imports and Exports in Alberton on the East Rand. This job saw him frequently travel to Mozambique, bringing him in direct contact with the then banned African National Congress (ANC), for which he served as an underground courier for several years.

He left the ANC due to a personal issue in 1987 and settled in Rabie Ridge in Midrand, where he bought a taxi and started a transport and vehicle repair business. He joined the United Democratic Party, which later merged with the National Party to become the New National Party (NNP). Da Gama was elected Deputy Chairman of the Midrand constituency and became one of the councillors of Kyalami Metropolitan Council at the dawn of the new local government dispensation in 1995.

Cllr Gama, who speaks 11 languages, joined the DA in 1999 and became the Chairman of its Johannesburg Caucus in 2000. He was elected Chairman of the Midrand and Sandton North constituencies, Chairman of the Association of Democratic Alliance Councillors (ADAC); Member of Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee and Chairperson of the Johannesburg Metro caucus. Da Gama became the Leader of the Johannesburg caucus in 2010 and in 2014. He has served on the Development Planning; Housing; Transport and Environment Section 79 Portfolio Committees.

Cllr Da Gama says: “In my position as Speaker, it will be imperative that I bring neutrality to the position rather than avoid answers and accountability.”

His Office will focus on improving safety and security, especially for women and children and other vulnerable groups in the City of Johannesburg.

“We’re currently in a delicate time and it’s going to be tough, but so was the birth of our democracy. That phase of our history had the potential to be incredibly uneasy but cool heads and rational thinking brought us to where to we are today. Using lessons gained from the past will guide us to a better future for all our children and grandchildren,” says Cllr Da Gama.



The Speaker is the chairperson of the council - the chief custodian and guardian of the legislative arm of the council. 

The Speaker plays two important roles:

  • within the council
  • in building democracy

The Speaker presides over council meetings and makes sure the council meets at least every quarter. The Speaker also maintains order during meetings and ensure that such meetings are held according to the council's rules and regulations.

Another of the Speaker's duties is to assess the needs of the councillors, arrange suitable training to develop political governance capacity and improve individual skills.

In order to fulfil the role of building democracy, the Speaker manages community participation in local government, particularly through the ward committees, by ensuring they function effectively. The Speaker has to ensure public consultation, involvement and participation in the affairs of the municipality.



Joburg Growth and Development Strategy 2040: Governance




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