Steenhuisen: An ‘ANC faction’ is willing to engage with the DA on the future of Tshwane
The DA interim leader, however, added that the current impasse was allegedly being caused by wrangling for power between the ANC and EFF.
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Veli Nhlapo
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen visited the party Tshwane caucus on Wednesday to assess the current impasse in the city council, which has been left leaderless following repeated walkouts in council by the EFF and ANC.
He offered the cryptic revelation that a “faction within the ANC” may be willing to negotiate with the DA caucus in the city in order to get the business of council moving again, which he said could prove definitive as a moment of maturation of multiparty politics in the country.
However, he was also deeply critical of the recent actions of both the EFF and ANC and blamed the other parties for the city’s current problems. Steenhuisen revealed his view that they were both “buying time” in order to broker a power-sharing deal that could even see an EFF councillor becoming the mayor of Tshwane.
“The current situation in the Tshwane metro, where the city has no mayor, no city manager and no mayoral committee, is frustrating to all who want to see services delivered to the people. No single party in Tshwane has a governing majority. Of the total 214 seats, the DA has 93 seats, the ANC has 89 seats, the EFF has 25 seats and the remaining seats are shared out among several parties.
“A functioning government in the metro requires some form of cooperation, whether this is through a minority government or a coalition agreement. And to establish this cooperation requires council meetings attended by at least 108 of the 214 members.”
He accused the ANC and EFF of displaying no political will to reach an agreement on such a cooperation, which left the city rudderless and functioning on autopilot.
The EFF has maintained since last year that they do not wish to see the DA in charge of the city any more.
Steenhuisen said they had witnessed the “continuous sabotage of council meetings by the ANC”, adding it was “imperative that we find a way forward soon, so that the people of Tshwane do not suffer”.
He made it clear that they intended for the DA to continue to lead the government in the capital city since they had received more votes than the other parties.
“We will do whatever it takes to reach an agreement with both the ANC and the EFF – at local and national level – to break this impasse. This commitment to remain in government in Tshwane has the full support of the caucus. Our aim is to be the core of a realigned majority nationally by 2024, and the best way to achieve this is to demonstrate what we can do in government.
“In Tshwane this could happen via another coalition agreement, or through a minority government. Either way, the DA is prepared to step back into government, and we have a comprehensive plan to restore service delivery to the city. The roll-out of this plan would be closely managed by the political leadership in the Metro, by our provincial structures in Gauteng, and by our Governance Unit at Federal level.
“We are fully aware of the challenges of such a transitionary period. The tricky seven-party coalition that the DA had to lead in Cape Town from 2006 to 2011 required an extraordinary effort, but the end result was a full mandate in 2011, and the ability to roll out our plans for the city unencumbered. It is no coincidence that today, a decade on, Cape Town leads every other metro in every measure of governance. This is what we envision for the City of Tshwane too, and we will do whatever it takes to restore leadership and order in the metro.”
He accused the EFF and ANC of employing a “destructive strategy … repeatedly denying council meetings the required 108-member quorum [as] a delaying tactic to buy these two parties time to broker a power-sharing deal at national level.
“Such a deal would allegedly secure a split of mayorship and speaker positions for both parties in the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane. By all accounts, such a deal has not and cannot be reached nationally, and so their indefinite sabotage strategy continues in Tshwane, at great cost to the residents of the city.
“However, the ANC is not necessarily interested in trying to resolve these issues. In making the City ungovernable by constantly breaking quorum and walking out of meetings, they can create conditions for Gauteng Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile to place the metro under administration. This will enable the ANC to take over the council for their interests, despite the fact that the voters rejected them in the last election.
“The ANC’s goal is always power. They will make the city ungovernable to gain control by nefarious means, because they could not get it by democratic means. They are sabotaging and bypassing democracy through manipulating the use of Section 139 of the Constitution. The DA will resist that because it was never intended to use 139 to bypass the outcome of a democratic election, through enabling minorities to make a council ungovernable.”
Steenhuisen called on the minority parties’ councillors to attend meetings, nominate candidates for election as mayor and accept the outcome of a democratic vote.
“This is how to break the current impasse, without trying to manipulate section 139 of the constitution for nefarious power-grabbing purposes.
“The ANC has also worked hard to create the perception among the public that all parties, including the DA, are to blame for this governance crisis in Tshwane. This is simply not true. The DA has always been and remains fully committed to finding a solution to break the impasse. We realise that, due to the authoritarian nature of the ANC and EFF’s decision-making process, any efforts to broker a deal at local level will inevitably be subject to the backroom deals these parties reach at national level.
“And so while we have mandated DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams to seek solutions with the ANC and EFF in the city, our Federal leadership is committed to do the same with both parties nationally. Unfortunately this has, to date, been met with a complete lack of interest to reach out from their side.
“However, within the ANC there appears to be a faction that is willing to engage, and this is where the hope for not only the future of Tshwane, but indeed the future of South Africa lies. Collaboration between those who genuinely have the interests of the people at heart, regardless of their party, can lead to the emergence of a new majority built around shared values and a shared vision for our country and its cities and towns. The DA has always been eager to seek out and work with those who want to break free from the destructive status quo in our politics and plot a new way forward. If there is a chance to pilot such a realignment in Tshwane, we will pursue it.
“What we see playing out in Tshwane is the growing pains of a democracy as it progresses from the hegemony of a one-party state into a fully fledged multi-party democracy, where governing power exchanges hands orderly and peacefully at the ballot box. This process is never easy or painless, but it is essential that we go through it if we want our democracy to mature and break free from one-party dominance. If we can find our way through this in Tshwane, we can ultimately do so at national level too.”