POWER PLAY, PART ONE
Prepare for a political roller coaster ride as parties jostle for positions in municipal coalitions
Power has changed hands in a quarter of the metros since the 31 October local elections. Now, South Africans are heading for an even wilder ride than witnessed between 2016 and 2021.
The DA was smarting after it cobbled together an unlikely coalition of 10 parties to take down Eugene Johnson and the ANC-led coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay on 22 September. The party was on a relatively good run, having picked up two seats in recent Western Cape by-elections.
Retief Odendaal’s face was added to a poster showing the DA now had mayors in five of the eight metros in South Africa. The challenge for the DA was that four of those five mayors were dependent on the support of coalition partners, and that only one of those four coalitions could be described as a coalition that was natural.
The DA believed that the coalition councillors who went astray in Johannesburg would be dealt with, and those parties would come back on board and would be able to vote in a new speaker from the DA. The coalition could even withstand Cope’s Colleen Makhubele aligning herself with the ANC-led bloc.
It unravelled very quickly, as Makhubele – Cope’s sole councillor in the City of Joburg – beat the DA candidate in the rerun of the election of the speaker on 28 September.
The ANC still has nightmares after seeing Julius Malema in the Ekurhuleni council chambers in Germiston in late November 2021, when the EFF leader came to witness the election of the DA’s Tania Campbell as mayor of the metro there.
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The DA had a similar nightmare. Kenny Kunene, the deputy president of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), was milling about Braamfontein on the day of the election of the speaker. His party’s eight seats were the decisive votes that saw the DA lose its second election for speaker in a short space of time. The fifth-largest party in the City of Joburg had moved over to the ANC coalition.
There was no Julius Malema in Braamfontein on the day of the election of the mayor. The PA was also not in the mood for games. Mpho Phalatse was removed as mayor on 30 September and, on that same day, Dada Morero, the ANC’s regional secretary, replaced her as mayor of the largest metro in the country.
Those who had written the obituary of the ANC in Gauteng had egg on their face as Paul Mashatile, Panyaza Lesufi and Morero will now use Johannesburg as their showcase city on the road to 2024.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Western Cape coalitions hold steady despite council rupture in City of Joburg”
Phalatse’s ousting led to an embarrassing online spat between ActionSA and the DA, with each side accusing the other of being responsible for this break-up.
An overlooked fact is that two smaller parties – the United Democratic Movement and Good – which were instrumental in helping the DA win the mayoral chain in Nelson Mandela Bay – had thrown their weight behind the ANC to take back the city from the DA/ActionSA coalition.
Let’s take a look at what could happen in other major Gauteng municipalities where the opposition governs.
In Ekurhuleni, it is a case of what Julius Malema giveth, Julius Malema can taketh away. Even if the PA joined the ANC opposition bloc in Ekurhuleni, the DA’s flimsy coalition could cling on for a bit longer.
The EFF is the true kingmaker on the East Rand. The 31 red berets will determine whether the DA’s Tania Campbell has to abdicate or whether the ANC returns to power here with the backing of the EFF.
Read in Daily Maverick: “ANC in talks with ‘a certain political party’ about taking over governance of Ekurhuleni”
The ANC could form a stable two-party coalition with the EFF (117/224 seats) which would not be beholden to smaller parties. The EFF could rightfully demand many key executive positions as its price for coalition stability for the ANC.
The administrative capital is tougher for the ANC to win back.
Despite the DA and ActionSA’s social media shouting match, this coalition can stay intact as the PA is not needed at present to form a majority – and even if Cope had to leave the multiparty coalition, it could still find another party to replace it.
Local party the Republican Conference of Tshwane has a seat occupied by a former DA councillor. While it has been heavily critical of the DA – and the councillor’s affection for Julian Assange would be at odds with the DA and ActionSA – this party could provide a realistic option to block the ANC from forming an 11-party coalition to oust the current coalition. The African Christian Democratic Party has two seats in Tshwane. Its councillors take the DA, ActionSA and Freedom Front Plus tally to 50%.
Mogale City (Krugersdorp)
Mogale City is in a similar position to that of Ekurhuleni. The ANC cannot take back Mogale City without Julius Malema’s blessing. The DA’s continued stewardship of this West Rand municipality is dependent on the level of the EFF’s tolerance of the insults hurled at it by the DA.
In 10 months, we have seen power change hands in a quarter of the metros. This is going to be a wilder ride than witnessed between 2016 and 2021.
Yes, all politics is local. However, do not forget that there is a general election in 2024.
Gauteng is the most vulnerable of the provinces. The “First Lady” of Johannesburg is now from the ANC. They have dealt with the DA’s Phalatse, a mayor who was garnering good press for herself and her party.
This change in leadership also means that the disruptor of the Gauteng local government elections in 2021 – ActionSA – has less opportunity to prove itself as it will lose its mayoral committee positions in Johannesburg.
The EFF also has options. Does it give the ANC what the ANC desperately wants, or will it be selective and remind them that not only does the ANC need it in Mogale City and Ekurhuleni, but they will also need them in 2024?
The PA’s Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene have studied those Gauteng results from the local government elections closely. They know it’s possible that the ANC and EFF can’t swing more than 50% of the seats, and the same with the DA/ActionSA/FF+.
I am sure McKenzie thinks Premier Kenny Kunene has a certain ring to it. DM
Wayne Sussman is Daily Maverick’s election analyst. Watch out for Power Play, Part Two: ‘Paths to growth’.