South Africa

South Africa

ANC in Opposition: Challenging the DA while it’s vulnerable in Joburg

Barely a month goes by without a no confidence motion somewhere across government. The latest motion is playing out in Johannesburg where the ANC has launched a bid to get rid of DA Mayor Herman Mashaba and Speaker Vasco da Gama. The DA’s behaviour in coalitions and the EFF’s frustrations could put the mayor’s leadership in jeopardy. By GREG NICOLSON.

In August, the Johannesburg ANC reviewed the DA coalition government’s performance after a year in power. The ANC thought Mashaba’s leadership was so poor that it created a new grading system. The mayor got an “H” – apparently an F wasn’t bad enough – and the ANC told him to “go home”. It said Mashaba had only achieved 20% of the goals outlined in his 10-point plan and had “plunged the city into a state of paralysis”.

DA-led administrations in municipalities across the country have been put in jeopardy since the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) took a decision not to attend council meetings, following the DA’s successful no confidence motion against the United Democratic Movement (UDM) deputy mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Now the ANC, still coming to terms with being the opposition in the country’s major cities, is taking a page from the DA playbook and launching a no confidence motion in Mashaba and Da Gama.

It will be debated and voted on during the council sessions on 26 and 27 September.

After only 13 months in office, this move should be dismissed as the antics of a desperate party trying to come to terms with its new role in opposition,” said Mashaba in a statement. “The fact is that this baseless allegation is a smokescreen, aimed at assuming control that would allow the looting to continue once again because change threatens the very survival of the ANC.”

The ANC’s statement said the party will announce the merits of the motion at the council meeting. The party accused Mashaba, whose office announced the no confidence motion, of violating the city council’s rules. The ANC claimed council documents are embargoed until they’ve been deliberated on. It thanked Mashaba for accepting the challenge to debate and vote on the motions, but the ANC plans to report him to the ethics committee for allegedly violating council rules.

We can’t afford one more day with Mashaba,” said ANC Johannesburg spokesperson Jolidee Matongo. He said the administration’s finances were in a dire state after the city withdrew R1-billion from the debt redemption fund, meant to repay bonds, asked the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) to borrow R3-billion, had a revenue collection shortfall of R3.4-billion, and had instructed officials not to pay service providers. “The city’s on the brink of financial collapse.”

Municipal IQ’s Kevin Allan said Joburg’s most recent financials show a high proportion of debtors over 90 days, potentially pointing to billing problems, but whoever runs the city will face the same issues. “Until June this year, the current DA-led council was still implementing the previous ANC-controlled annual budget, so they’ve had only a few months since passing their own budget to make any meaningful changes – far too little time to make any judgement on whether their budget has been good or bad.”

Matongo, on the ANC’s motivation to push for a no confidence vote in Joburg’s speaker, claimed Da Gama was biased and failed to show the impartiality necessary to hold the city’s executive accountable.

Mashaba denied allegations the city’s finances are in trouble. “The reality is that despite the institutionalised corruption inherited, we have a financial state that is stable.”

In August, the city’s DA Finance MMC Rabelani Dagada dismissed the ANC’s claims on Johannesburg’s finances. He said it was the previous administration that actually had a R3.4-billion shortfall on revenue collection, the DBSA loan was secured to manage cash flow problems, revenue collection had actually risen, and suppliers were being paid according to Treasury regulations.

On the allegations against Da Gama, Mashaba’s spokesperson Luyanda Mfeka on Thursday said it’s not the mayor’s office’s place to speak on the matter, but that Mashaba “continues to have every faith in the integrity and capabilities of the speaker”.

The ANC has also accused Mashaba, who leads a coalition including the UDM, Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party, Al Jama-ah and the Congress of the People, of irregularly dismissing or suspending 25 senior officials and plunging the city into “organisational chaos”. Mashaba has said he has followed the law regarding city personnel and will keep those who perform.

The mayor is largely known for his work attempting to revitalise the inner city. Mashaba has suggested that problems in the area stem from undocumented migrants committing crimes and has led raids on supposedly hijacked buildings, forcing some of the inner city’s poor into displacement camps.

He has rejected the requirement to provide alternative accommodation to evictees, stating that he will only try to help South African evictees with alternative accommodation, not foreigners. Mashaba’s administration has also experienced problems, like the ANC, with the city’s billing crisis but he ambitiously committed to resolving the problem by the end of the 2017-18 financial year.

Responding to the ANC’s no confidence motion, Mashaba on Thursday pointed to his administration’s achievements. He said under his leadership the city had established an anti-corruption unit dealing with cases worth over R14-billion. He said there are plans to upgrade 51 informal settlements over three years, the city has extended operating hours at some clinics and libraries, has reduced traffic light downtime, and plans to employ 1,500 more metro cops.

Mashaba has been a controversial and publicly divisive figure since he was elected. So why has the ANC now decided to push a no confidence motion?

The DA recently removed Mongameli Bobani as Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor. He is from the UDM, which is in coalition with the DA, but he regularly voted against the coalition’s motions. The DA’s move angered the EFF and the party decided it wouldn’t attend any DA-led coalition council sittings until the matter is resolved.

The EFF, although not in coalition with the DA, voted Mashaba in as mayor to avoid an ANC administration in Johannesburg. What the party does next will decide the future of the city. The ANC’s Matongo said there’s no guarantee the EFF will attend the no confidence vote. “If the EFF is not there, it’s a done deal,” he claimed, believing the ANC could remove the mayor if the EFF decides not to attend the vote.

Neither Johannesburg EFF leader Musa Novela or EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi provided a response on the party’s plans on Thursday evening. EFF leader Julius Malema has warned the DA his party might not vote with DA in councils where it needs the fighters’ support.

Matongo also said the ANC will lobby councillors within the DA-led coalition to remove the mayor. He claimed DA councillors unhappy with the mayor’s leadership had previously told the ANC to institute no confidence proceedings against Mashaba. That could help remove the mayor but does not necessarily mean they would support an ANC mayor if Mashaba was axed.

The DA has punted coalition administrations as a solution to improved governance ahead of the 2019 general elections. Challenges in Nelson Mandela Bay, Mogale City and, potentially, Johannesburg, where the DA-led coalition relies on the EFF’s co-operation, displays the problems with coalitions. They rely on a fragile balance and, even if they work, can be influenced by broader politics, like how the situation in Nelson Mandela Bay has impacted on Tshwane and Johannesburg.

Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni said the DA’s actions in Nelson Mandela Bay and other instances of disregarding coalition partners’ views show it does not recognise the fragility of coalition governments or that its smaller partners enjoy disproportionate power. “There is no doubt the DA has shot itself in the foot,” he said. The party’s difficulties in managing its coalition agreements have opened up an avenue for the ANC to reclaim the cities it lost in 2016.

Right now the ANC is smelling blood. It has been against the wall for too long and it’s not going to stop.”

Fikeni noted the DA’s recent blunder when it decided to try to dissolve Parliament and force early national elections, without the support of other opposition parties. He said the party risked losing the relationships the DA had built and a divided opposition could help the ANC reduce its losses in 2019. DM

Photo: ANC’s Parks Tau and DA’s Herman Mashaba debate at the Gathering 2016. (Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)


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