City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has announced that he will resign from the DA and as a councillor following the election of Helen Zille as the party’s federal council chairperson.
“The election of Helen Zille as chairperson of federal council represents a victory for people in the DA who stand diametrically opposed to my beliefs and value system and I believe those of most South Africans of all backgrounds,” said Mashaba at the Johannesburg City Council on Monday.
The mayor, who threatened to resign last week if “right-wing elements” were elected at the DA’s weekend federal council meeting, said he wanted to leave his office on 27 November to ensure his exit was handled smoothly.
Zille’s election is a blow for party leader Mmusi Maimane, who spoke graciously about Mashaba at Monday’s announcement of his resignation. Zille is understood to represent elements in the party who want to challenge the party’s policies on race and empowerment and no longer co-operate with the EFF, which helped vote Mashaba into office in 2016.
“I cannot reconcile myself with a group of people who believe that race is irrelevant in the discussion of inequality and poverty in South Africa in 2019. I cannot reconcile myself with people who do not see that South Africa is more unequal today than it was in 1994,” said Mashaba.
He said it was a “foregone conclusion” that the DA would collapse his administration and some party members had criticised his leadership and his pro-poor agenda.
“From the very first day I took office this coalition arrangement has been undermined, criticised and rendered nearly impossible. In every way, the DA has been the most difficult coalition partner in this arrangement.”
Party members, including Maimane, are understood to have tried to persuade Mashaba to stay.
“I’m gravely concerned that the DA I signed up to is no longer the DA that has emerged out of this weekend’s federal council. The DA no longer represents the party that is able to achieve what I desire most – a movement that can save South Africa, unseat the ANC and deliver one South Africa for all,” said Mashaba.
“I am now in a position where I am forced to choose between my party and my county. Ladies and gentlemen, I will always choose my country first,” said the mayor.
Maimane described Mashaba as a comrade and a friend and said there was no doubt the city had improved under his leadership. “I respect Herman Mashaba’s decision and note the communication that he has done today,” he said.
The party leader said he firmly supported coalitions and the DA would need to work with other parties to unseat the ANC.
“The project is not finished. The work must continue,” said Maimane.
In a statement, DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi thanked Mashaba and said the party’s federal executive would meet urgently to discuss Mashaba’s resignation.
“The resignation of Mr Mashaba as Mayor of Johannesburg does not signal an end to the DA’s commitment to the people of Johannesburg and South Africa,” said Malatsi.
During the party’s federal council meeting, a party review compiled by former DA leader Tony Leon, former CEO Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux was tabled that suggested governing Johannesburg and Tshwane with the support of the EFF was a mistake.
According to News24, the report read, “While appreciating the complexity and difficulty of the decision at the time, our view is that forming governments with the EFF’s support in Johannesburg and Tshwane was a mistake.”
The report said that relying on the support of the EFF made it difficult to implement the DA’s policies and damaged the party’s brand.
In a statement, the EFF said Mashaba had helped improve the city and implement policies that improved the lives of the poor. The party, which is a kingmaker in Johannesburg and Tshwane, said it would announce its plans for the future of the city’s leadership before Mashaba leaves office.
“He was always humble, consultative and willing to concede to superior logic,” said the EFF.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the election of Helen Zille as Federal Chairperson is a turn to the right in the DA which should necessitate all social democrats to abandon it once and for all,” the party continued.
Zille has hit back against Mashaba’s claims, telling EWN, “Herman knows very well that I was hiding uMkhonto WeSizwe operatives in my house when he was a businessman making many billions out of hair straighteners and things.”
ANC Johannesburg spokesperson Jolidee Matongo claimed Mashaba had resigned because the city’s finances are in ruins.
“Mashaba’s resignation has very little to do with the election of Helen Zille as the DA’s Chairperson. His resignation is informed by the dire financial crisis that he has plunged the City of Johannesburg into,” said Matongo.
Among the achievements Mashaba and the DA cited during the mayor’s tenure, both said the city’s finances had vastly improved from when the ANC was in power. They said preliminary reports showed Johannesburg would have a cash balance of R4.4-billion at the end of 2018/19, had established an R2.5-billion debt redemption fund and spent 91% of capital expenditure.
Mashaba’s resignation may open the door for the ANC to return to power in the city. The party has reportedly attempted to court the IFP, which would give it a majority. The IFP is currently part of the DA’s coalition.
IFP Gauteng chairperson Bonginkosi Dhlamini said the party would study Mashaba’s comments on the city’s governance.
“The co-operation government has not been without its challenges, but importantly, most often than not we have been able to agree on the best possible solutions for the people we serve. The disagreements have strengthened our cooperation,” said Dhlamini.
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) also criticised Mashaba’s leadership, claiming he had sought to cripple the union and collapse collective bargaining.
“His resignation brings an end to his reign of terror in which workers and unions have been victims,” said the union in a statement. DM