Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/ANA

Johannesburg - City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has expressed disappointment by the remarks made by member of Johannesburg’s mayoral committee (MMC) Mpho Phalatse on Israel. 

Mashaba suspended Phalatse after she expressed solidarity for Israel on behalf of the city without consulting or approval from the party. 

“I would like to declare that I am a friend of Israel, and the City of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel! Shalom Shalom!," Phalatse wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The tweet has since sparked outrage from the Phalatse's party as well the ANC and EFF. 

The mayor in a statement confirmed Phalatse's suspension pending an investigation and expressed disappointment at her remarks. 

 "I was disappointed by the remarks, not as they relate to her personal beliefs – I will defend with my life the rights of any South African to hold personal belief of their choosing.

"My disappointment stemmed from the attribution of those sentiments to the City of Johannesburg on a matter of such an emotional and sensitive nature. 

READ: Mashaba suspends DA councillor over pro-Israel tweet

Mashaba added: "As the executive mayor, I believe in a peaceful two state solution that sees a secure and prosperous Palestine living alongside a secure and prosperous Israel.

"When I came into office I made it clear to the International community that Johannesburg’s agenda was to be inwardly focused on the myriad of challenges its residents face."

The work of international relations was not be our focus. Our focus had to be our residents and addressing their historical neglect in favour of international relations. The matter of the conflicts in the Middle-East is complex and requires a sensitive approach, recognising this same complexity is mirrored in our own diverse city, Mashaba further said. 

"It is for this reason, that I have taken the decision to suspend MMC Phalatse pending an investigation into the full and proper context in which those remarks were aired. I believe we owe this to MMC Phalatse and the residents of our city.

"I call upon all councillors in this chamber, and the residents of the City of Johannesburg to not allow for the further breakdown of social cohesion in our city."

Reacting to Mashaba's announcement was the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), which rejected the move as coalition partners were not consulted first. 

The party said while it respected the DA's right to discipline its member, the party's policy was not that of the city's. 

"The coalition partners have never discussed the city position on Israel much less agreed on the Mayor's position. Until such time as all parties have discussed and agreed on a position there is no city policy towards Israel.

"The ACDP also wishes to remind Mashaba that an MMC cannot be suspended by him alone but must have the support of council. The ACDP will not support this suspension."