DA leader John Steenhuisen says the party was just as surprised as the rest of South Africa when the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) threw their weight behind their mayoral candidates in the Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg metro municipalities.
The EFF ensured quite the upset on Monday evening in both these metros, when they voted in support of the DA’s mayoral candidates, Dr Mpho Phalatse and Tania Campbell, as mayors of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni respectively.
This after a week of drama which indicated that the ANC may retain control of both municipalities, due to the DA refusing to work with the EFF and withdrawing from proposed coalition government negotiations with several other parties.
On Tuesday morning, Steenhuisen said the EFF’s decision to support their candidates “came as a surprise to everyone, including us at the DA”.
“We didn’t ask for help from the EFF to lead these governments, and we did not expect to leave these meetings with two new DA mayors, and both these metros’ first-ever female mayors. But the election of Dr Mpho Phalatse and Tania Campbell, as the new mayors of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni respectively, signifies an incredible opportunity for these metros.”
The DA leader said their first priority would now be ensuring stable governments, by solidifying coalitions with parties which share their principles.
“If we can get this right, today could be the start of a bright new chapter for these cities that are crying out for stable governance and better leadership.”
He made it clear though that the DA would not allow EFF to hold them hostage by forcing them to concede to any poor government decisions.
“We are certainly not here to cling to power at all cost and would sooner return to the opposition benches than give way to demands that are unrealistic, corrupt or require us to govern badly.
“I also want to make it clear that we did not solicit the support of the EFF – or ActionSA for that matter – for our candidates in these metros. There was no deal made with them, and there is no quid pro quo for supporting our candidates.”
Steenhuisen said the DA would put proposals on the table to end corruption, improve service delivery and the cities’ finances and job creation. Whether the EFF supports them will be “up to them”.
He said the DA was, however, under no illusions that the EFF voting for their candidates meant everything would be sunshine and roses.
“I think it is clear to all that the EFF voted against the ANC more than they voted for the DA. They extracted no concessions from us, and they will get none. What this means is that these governments could very well be short-lived.”
Steenhuisen said the DA would stick to their principles and would not allow themselves to be held hostage by those who voted for them, as putting residents in these metros comes before political one-upmanship.
“This is not a game of political chess or checkers, as some have called it. This is about doing what’s right by the people who live in these metros. It’s about responsible, accountable governance that improves lives and restores hope.”