South Africa, Politics

Coalition governing: Is there a DA traitor in Mogale City?

By Greg Nicolson 8 June 2017

Mogale City does not have a mayor. After a successful no confidence motion on Wednesday saw the DA’s Michael Holenstein removed, parties supporting the DA strenuously denied they voted against him. It looks like someone within the DA council voted with the ANC, highlighting the challenges of minority governance. By GREG NICOLSON.

The most important numbers in Mogale City are 38 and 39, but they don’t always fall the same way. After the local government elections in August, the DA’s Lynn Pannall was elected mayor, beating the ANC candidate by a single vote. The speaker and council chief whip positions, however, saw the numbers fall in the ANC’s favour. When Pannall resigned in December, citing ill-health, the DA’s Michael Holenstein was elected, 39 to 38. The DA won again. But Holenstein was voted out on Wednesday, during a no confidence motion held by secret ballot, this time with the vote going to the ANC way, 39 to 38.

Either a councillor that was meant to be supporting the DA, or multiple councillors on different occasions, are not sticking to the party line. Opposition parties that Daily Maverick interviewed on Wednesday suggested the traitor comes from within the DA. The DA is proposing coalition administrations as the future of governance ahead of the 2019 general elections, but the chaos in Mogale City, as well as challenges in Nelson Mandela Bay, highlight there are problems.

Voting in Mogale City has been a mess, so on Wednesday the smaller opposition parties decided to ensure they would be accountable. The municipality has 77 councillors. After last year’s elections, the ANC held 38, the DA, 27, EFF, nine, Freedom Front Plus, two, and IFP, one. The DA is in coalition with the IFP and FF+.

The EFF has pledged its support. The DA should win 39 votes on each council decision, but from the moment the ANC’s Patrick Lipudi was elected speaker and Sipho Dube, also from the ANC, was elected chief whip of council, in August it was clear someone from either the DA, EFF, FF+, or IFP wasn’t voting according to party lines.

On Wednesday, the Mogale City council voted on a no confidence motion in DA Mayor Michael Holenstein. Before the vote, the EFF, FF+ and IFP, which have often been accused of splitting their votes or voting for the ANC, made a plan. The vote was held by secret ballot, but each of the smaller coalition partners and the EFF used different coloured pens to mark their ballots, so they would know who voted for whom.

Holenstein was voted out, meaning, again, someone flipped. According to FF+ Councillor Amanda de Lange, the coloured-pen process could not have been manipulated and it showed the FF+, EFF, IFP and EFF all voted to keep the mayor. “One can only ask where the mole is,” she said. “It’s clear that someone has turned his votes. He did last year and he did today.”

If the coloured-pen process was accurate, the only conclusion is that a DA councillor – the DA wasn’t involved in the coloured-pen system – flipped. “Yes, they did get to a DA member,” said De Lange, confirming suspicions a DA councillor voted for the ANC motion. “For their [DA] leadership it’s a shock. When they do start, they will most probably find [the DA councillor].”

EFF Mogale City leader Eric Baloyi said it was still difficult to ascertain who voted for whom, but from the action taken by opposition parties he said it was quite clear the EFF, FF+ and IFP supported the incumbent DA mayor. There are allegations the ANC bribed or intimidated someone to vote for the no confidence motion. “They can do anything to gain power,” said Baloyi.

IFP’s Mogale councillor Bongani Eric Nkosi was reluctant to comment. His provincial leader, however, was unequivocal. IFP Gauteng leader Bonginkosi Dlamini denied allegations Nkosi was the turncoat, claiming the DA was divided over Holenstein’s leadership. He claimed he knew as a fact the IFP hadn’t voted against the DA. “The DA must investigate within its ranks who is the rat, who is selling out,” said Dlamini.

The DA’s constituency leader in the area, Alan Fuchs, an MPL in the provincial legislature, said his party still needs to investigate. He said one out of the 39 councillors supposed to be supporting the DA “stabbed the voting bloc in the back”. “If I had a crystal ball, buddy, I’d tell you who it is,” he said. “If it’s true that it is someone within the DA, we’ll take action.”

The ANC denied the allegations it bribed or intimidated councillors to oust the Mogale mayor. Asked about the allegations, ANC West Rand spokesperson Refentse Mangope questioned whether the DA bribed councillors when it was voted into power. He accused the EFF of intimidation and said the ANC would never ever use bribes, but had appealed to councillors to change their mind on the mayor.

Currently, Mogale City is without a mayor or mayoral council, which gets dissolved once a motion of no confidence is passed. The ANC will put forward its own mayoral candidate when council reconvenes and Mangope said he’s confident an ANC mayor will be elected. The DA is still looking at its options and Fuchs said the party might nominate Holenstein again, nominate another mayor, or decide not to contest the position. He also said the DA would look at its legal options.

The DA has claimed it was making improvements in Mogale City, but all of the parties in council spoke of a coalition government that has struggled to assert its leadership. The election of a DA mayor with an ANC speaker and council chief whip made things unworkable. In January, the DA led a motion of no confidence in the ANC speaker and chief whip Lidupi and Dube. The ANC officials were removed. The ANC’s Gauteng Cooperative Governance MEC Paul Mashatile, who also serves as the province’s ANC chairperson, intervened and the pair were reinstated. The DA claims Mashatile has tried to intervene to benefit the ANC, and claims he has relentlessly been using underhanded tactics to weaken the DA-led government.

The council has struggled to pass key resolutions and has at times seen aggressive confrontations. Neither the budget or integrated development plan have been passed. The DA and opposition parties blame Speaker Lidupi. They say the ANC speaker has been blatantly biased and imposed an illegal version of the rules, which they say were not properly passed in 2016. The ANC’s Mangope said the rules were valid and claimed the DA had lost a court case on the matter last year.

The turmoil in Mogale highlights the challenges of governing in a coalition, when no party wins a majority. “Certainly it’s not easy, but it’s the way of the future,” said the DA’s Fuchs on coalitions. He said there were mechanisms in place to ensure the coalition works but individuals have personal interests and aren’t always transparent. Mangope said: “This is a coalition administration and you don’t have consistent or permanent agreement on a number of issues.”

At a national level, the DA has said coalitions should be a future blueprint for governance after support from opposition parties helped it take metros Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, as well as other municipalities. On Mayor Herman Mashaba’s Johannesburg government, Mmusi Maimane said recently, “It leaves no room for doubt that this is the way forward for SA: coalition government, so that no single party can abuse their power in our country ever again.” Mogale City and Nelson Mandela Bay highlight the risks of coalition governance: instability and infighting.

The challenges of coalition governance were evident recently when the DA’s Nelson Mandela Metro Municipality Mayor Athol Trollip tried to fire his deputy, Mongameli Bobani, from the UDM. Trollip and Bobani are clearly at odds, but intervention by party leaders has avoided further stand-off between the pair and, for now, the coalition remains intact.

In Mogale City, however, there appears to be no end in sight to the turmoil. DM

Photo: Mogale City limit (Satour)



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