The country’s three largest political parties look set to battle it out for the City of Johannesburg’s political pot of gold as current mayor Herman Mashaba prepares to hand in his mayoral chain next month.
Mashaba resigned suddenly last Monday, shaking the DA’s coalition-based grip on the mayor’s office.
The ANC and EFF have each made it known that they want control of the City and are hoping to capitalise on the DA’s torrid fortnight in which three high-profile figures – Mashaba, Mmusi Maimane, and Athol Trollip – resigned from their positions.
Last week, in a blistering resignation speech, Mashaba revealed startling claims about the treatment he had endured in the party. He said his biggest challenge in the Johannesburg DA-led coalition was the DA itself.
Mashaba told a room of journalists that he could not reconcile himself with a DA which believed race was irrelevant in formulating its redress policies. His resignation came a day after Helen Zille was elected to the powerful federal council chairperson position.
The ANC was quick to make its play, even attending Mashaba’s resignation announcement and making known its plans to take over the position.
The ANC has been courting the IFP, one of the DA’s coalition partners in Johannesburg, in a bid to win its vote.
Its previous efforts to woo the IFP failed during a humiliating motion of no confidence three months ago. The ANC was forced to withdraw the motion when the two parties couldn’t agree on mayoral seat positions.
The ANC’s metro council hopes also hinge on negotiations between the two parties on a national level.
News24 understands the IFP is jittery about upsetting the DA, its current coalition partner, because this might have a ripple effect and impact municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.
A source who has knowledge of the negotiations said the IFP was considering its options largely because the ANC offered the party mayoral positions in KZN councils.
“This is the party’s founding province so for them, it’s first prize,” one source said.
ANC Johannesburg regional secretary Dada Morero said the party was going into negotiations with the IFP, purely to discuss the future of the City.
At a national level, the ANC has, however, made clear efforts to woo the IFP.
The ANC elected senior IFP leader Mkhuleko Hlengwa the chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
The ANC also backed Gauteng IFP leader Bonginkosi Dlamini as the premier’s oversight committee chairperson in the Gauteng legislature, indicating its support for the party.
“The ANC will place Geoffrey Makhubo as its front runner for Joburg mayor,” the source said.
On Monday, EFF leader Julius Malema said his party would seek to go at it alone in a bid to secure its first opportunity to govern a government arm.
The EFF played kingmakers in most hung metros after the 2016 local elections. In Johannesburg, the DA took 121 seats, the ANC 104, and the EFF secured enough votes for 30 positions in the council.
The IFP bagged five seats, the African Independent Congress took four and the African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus, Al Jama-ah, Congress of the People and Patriotic Alliance took one seat each.
The EFF decided to go into an informal partnership with the DA.
While the DA’s relationship with the EFF in most metros soured, Mashaba gained favour with Malema and the red berets, and their support for him continued.
Mashaba’s resignation, Zille’s ascension to power and the fact that the DA’s review report notes the decision to enter into an agreement with the EFF was a “mistake”, has left ties between the two parties in a tatters.
“I get worried that every time there is a position in the municipality people talk about giving it to the ANC and the DA, including some leaders in the EFF, but they never talk about the EFF after the EFF said we are ready to govern. We ought to look at this thing broadly,” Malema said.
He added the party had well-experienced leaders in the EFF.
“I wanted to propose that the EFF must contest and it must contest without talking to anyone,” Malema, said adding that this was not the party’s position yet.
The EFF in Gauteng will likely recommend three names to the national leadership for consideration.
The DA will likely have to work hard to convince its coalition partners against switching alliances to either the DA or the EFF.
A source in the largest opposition party said without its two polarising and powerful black leaders, Mmusi Maimane and Mashaba, the DA will find it difficult to negotiate with black political leaders.
“If you look at the dynamics that we have now, Zille and John Steenhuisen as parliamentary leader, they control the party. It’s not going to be easy. Like it or not, race in these negotiations matter. It makes things easier and the tone becomes lighter.
“If we really want to cling to Johannesburg, we might have to give up Tshwane,” the insider said.
The source, who sits at federal meetings, said the party’s choice for Johannesburg mayor was between Funzela Ngobeni and Makashule Gana.