South Africa


After less than a month, EFF backtracks on decision not to vote in municipal councils

After less than a month, EFF backtracks on decision not to vote in municipal councils
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Netwerk24)

Just under a month ago, EFF leader Julius Malema told a press conference that the party’s councillors would no longer participate in voting in any municipal councils. He said the decision had been taken in order to deprive both the DA and the ANC of the EFF’s support. Fast forward a few weeks, however, and the EFF has apparently already backtracked: voting alongside the ANC to remove the DA mayor and speaker in the Matzikama municipality.

We are no longer voting with the DA in all municipalities and we will not vote with the ANC. We will participate in debates. However, we will not vote.”

Those were the words of EFF leader Julius Malema at a press conference held on 2 July 2019.

During the same briefing, he later reiterated that EFF representatives would make input in council meetings, but “if anything requires voting, the EFF will abstain from voting”.

Less than a month later, the EFF has seemingly already backtracked on this new policy.

A statement from the DA on 30 July read: “Today, during a scheduled council meeting in the Matzikama municipality, the EFF chose to vote with the ANC in a motion of no confidence against the DA mayor and speaker, Johan van der Hoven and Kallie Louw”.

The motion of no confidence was successfully carried with the weight of the combined votes of the ANC, EFF and the United Democrats (UD) party, unseating the two DA municipal leaders. The new mayor will be the UD’s David Jenner, with the ANC’s Hennie Nell taking the speaker position. A post to the Matzikama municipality’s Facebook page confirmed the new leadership team.

The Matzikama municipality has been beset with political turbulence, with four mayors in the space of about two years and a constant power carousel between the DA and the ANC.

After a by-election held in December 2018, the council composition saw seven seats go to the DA, six to the ANC, one to the EFF and one to the UD.

The UD’s Jenner had previously lent his support to the DA, but he has now thrown his lot in with the ANC — evidently in exchange for the mayoral role. Due to the council numbers, the ANC and Jenner would not have been able to unseat the DA without the aid of the EFF.

The DA charged that the coup would undo “all the gains that were made under a DA-led municipality”. In late June 2019, Matzikama was announced as one of 12 Western Cape municipalities (out of 30) to receive a clean audit from the Auditor-General.

No information has been made publicly available as to why the EFF chose to align with the ANC in the council vote.

The DA’s statement, from the party’s Matzikama constituency head Richard Majola, described it as “astonishing” that “the EFF’s Xolani Tshetu chose to vote with the ANC, handing power and access to the municipalities’ finances over to them”.

But the decision is doubly surprising given the EFF’s newly minted no-vote policy.

Tshetu, who was the EFF’s 150th candidate on the party’s 2019 national election list, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Daily Maverick contacted EFF spokespeople Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Sixo Gcilishe via several different channels to ask whether the Matzikama council vote marks an official reversal of the abstaining policy, but received no response.

The no-vote decision was announced by Malema as one of the outcomes of the EFF’s special meeting held on 1 July. Although it was framed as stemming mainly from the EFF’s failure to reach an agreement with the DA over potential power-sharing in the metros of Tshwane and Johannesburg, Malema was at pains to stress that the decision applied equally to the ANC.

In response to the announcement at the time, the ANC’s Tshwane chairperson Kgosi Maepa accused Malema of being a political flip-flopper.

We would like to put it unequivocally that we don’t believe news of the said divorce as stated by the EFF,” Maepa told The Sowetan.

Mr Malema is known to waffle a lot to unsuspecting followers and obfuscate at every opportunity.”

Tuesday’s events in the Matzikama council would appear to lend some credence to Maepa’s assessment.

The EFF’s choice to align with the ANC in this manner will also fuel speculation that — as articulated recently by Ferial Haffajee in Daily Maverick — Malema’s ultimate intention is to “use his power and his pedestal to join the fightback against Ramaphosa’s reform, reverse his fighters back into the ANC and then race for the party presidency”. DM


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