Newly appointed interim leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) John Steenhuisen says the party will negotiate with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the hope of finding a Johannesburg mayoral candidate both parties can agree on.
This after outgoing Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba announced his resignation from both the party and his position last month, effective from November 27.
“We will be speaking with the EFF. We’ve got a negotiating team that will deal with them,” Steenhuisen told Power FM.
“It is a similar team who put the original deal together. We are committed to ensuring that we don’t throw Joburg back to the wolves,” he added.
With just 38% of the vote, the DA has managed to lead a seven-party coalition since the last local government elections in 2016.
But this arrangement is now in jeopardy, as an important factor in securing control of the council was the partnership the party struck with the EFF, who voted with the party on a case-by-case basis.
While the EFF’s relationship with the DA has soured since 2016, it has remained strong in Johannesburg due largely to Mashaba.
A key metro the party helped the DA gain control of, Nelson Mandela Bay, fell to a coalition led by UDM mayor Mongameli Bobani with the help of both the EFF and the ANC – as well as one rogue DA councillor.
And while the DA has not lost control of Tshwane, the EFF turned against the party here as well, trying unsuccessfully to remove former mayor Solly Msimanga – who subsequently left the position of his own accord to unsuccessfully run for the role of Gauteng premier.
In Johannesburg, though, the red berets have lauded Mashaba at almost every turn. The EFF and its leaders have often praised Mashaba for being instrumental in preserving its informal partnership.
Some within the DA have been critical of Mashaba’s close relationship with the EFF, defended by former leader Mmusi Maimane, with DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia referring to Malema as Mashaba’s “commander-in-chief“, echoing comments made by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu, who referred to Mashaba as “our mayor” following his resignation announcement.
It is believed by some that there’s something suspicious about their cosy relationship in Johannesburg.
A report by amaBhungane released last year noted that there were longstanding rumours that “the EFF was given patronage over lucrative City of Johannesburg tenders as a quid pro quo for working with Herman Mashaba’s DA-led administration”.
The report showed how before winning a controversial contract from the City of Johannesburg, a fleet firm made payments to a slush fund used by Malema and his party, and, while the rumours of Mashaba buying the EFF’s loyalty in Joburg have not been proven, the report added fuel to the fire.
Not helping matters for the DA was EFF leader Julius Malema pronouncing that the EFF would field its own candidate for the Joburg mayorship.
“I get worried that every time there is a position available in the municipality people talk about the DA and ANC but not about the EFF, yet we have said we are ready to govern,” Malema said while addressing the media following a site visit of Nasrec, where the EFF’s elective conference will take place in December.
“I don’t want us to reduce the debate into DA and ANC. I want to propose that the EFF must contest; everybody is fielding their own candidates, why can’t we field our own candidates?” he asked.
Mashaba, meanwhile, told Power FM that he is taking his time when it comes to deciding on his next step.
“I will announce my plans as and when I have had a break. [November 27] is my last day.”
Mashaba said he would “take a break and, sometime in the new year, would make a formal announcement around my future”.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, News24 Wire)