Vinay Choonie and Basil Douglas, two Democratic Alliance (DA) Johannesburg councillors believed to have betrayed their party and voted with the ANC to elect Geoff Makhubo as the key metro’s new mayor are defiant, daring their party to fire them.
Choonie confirmed to IOL that he voted against his own party, and said Douglas had done the same, although Douglas has not admitted to this, saying he should not be made to reveal who he voted for, as the vote was a secret ballot.
Subsequent to Makhubo’s election as mayor, the two councillors were the only two from the DA to attend the council sitting which resulted in the ANC’s Nonceba Molwele being appointed the council’s new speaker in a vote the DA has declared illegal and will be legally challenging.
Their attendance effectively outed them as being among three potential traitors in the ranks of the DA and its two alliance partners in Johannesburg – the Freedom Front Plus and African Christian Democratic Party, with Johannesburg Gauteng chairperson Mike Moriarty telling The Citizen that Choonie had admitted to voting with the ANC and that Douglas had not “unequivocally” denied it.
Choonie, an ANC member who switched to the DA in 2012, told IOL that the party’s direction under new federal council chairperson Helen Zille had led him to become disenchanted with the party, specifically what he saw as the party’s lack of interest in redress, which had led him to believe the DA was now a “white party”.
“In 2016 I was proud to stand as a ward councillor and win because I believed in Mmusi Maimane’s vision of ‘One South Africa For All’. The party has taken another turn and it is no more a party for all because they want to get white votes from the Freedom Front Plus,” said Choonie.
He also accuses the DA of allowing land grabs to take place in Lenasia South to appease the EFF under former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
“I went to the leadership and begged them to stop people from invading the ward, and they said we had an agreement with the EFF and we could not do anything about it. When you lose power like that and the EFF holds the city to ransom, it cannot be accepted,” Choonie said.
“I cannot spit in the face of the residents who elected me. Yes, the party puts you up to stand as a councillor, but I have been living in this community all my life and your face is very important when you go into an election. I am not a PR (proportional representative) councillor. I am a ward councillor, so I have been voted by name. Residents voted for Vinay Choonie,” he said.
Douglas expressed a similar sentiment to The Citizen on Thursday, saying recent events leading to Mashaba’s and former DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s departure show that the DA’s “real colours are not blue, but white”.
Moriarty, in response, accused Douglas of playing the “race card” and said he would have to “live with his conscience” after allowing someone implicated in corruption become Johannesburg’s new mayor.
Makhubo was accused in a report by investigative journalism centre amaBhungane of having earned R30 million as an “influence broker” in a deal between the City of Johannesburg and controversial Gupta-linked company Regiments Capital.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)