ANC, EFF and/or Patriotic Alliance – will SA democracy set up hard ceiling for Gayton McKenzie’s rise?
It now seems likely that the relationship between the ANC and the EFF will be the key to South Africa’s medium-term future. However, a third player, Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance, may scramble the space — and SA politics — for years to come.
The ANC and the EFF appear to be working more closely together in metros in Gauteng, while the Gauteng ANC leader has suggested they could work together in provincial government next year. However, signs are emerging of the difficulties they face in working together. It is these difficulties that other smaller parties, particularly the Patriotic Alliance, want to exploit.
For some in the middle classes, the prospect of a coalition between the ANC and the EFF in national government sparks intense fear.
Last week, the CEO of Investec, Richard Wainwright, claimed in an interview that such a coalition would probably deter investors.
The DA, with its base in the middle classes, has made keeping this coalition out of power the basis for its “moonshot” proposal to work with other parties.
The reason for this emotion is obvious — the EFF based its appeal on demands for radical change, and the middle classes have much to lose should the EFF achieve this.
EFF and ANC’s working arrangement
In the meantime, the EFF and the ANC have a working arrangement in which they vote together in local government in Gauteng and form administrations. But the ANC’s national leadership appears to have requested that ANC councillors cannot vote to elect an EFF member as mayor in Ekurhuleni. In return, the EFF has refused to vote for an ANC mayor in the City of Joburg.
The problems do not end there.
While the mayoral committee appears to be functioning in Joburg, the ANC councillors who were announced as members of the mayoral committee in Ekurhuleni have refused to take their oath of office, despite the fact they were announced as members of this committee two weeks ago.
This means that currently in that metro’s council, there is a mayor from the African Independence Congress (AIC), councillors from the EFF and no one else. The other positions are simply vacant.
There is an obvious problem with the relationship between the ANC and the EFF here, going deeper than just their refusal to vote for each other’s mayoral candidates.
In the meantime, the leader of the Patriotic Alliance, Gayton McKenzie, has said he is available for the position of mayor of Johannesburg. His party says it will support the motion by ActionSA to remove the current mayor, Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad.
McKenzie is manoeuvring to take advantage of the relationship problems the ANC and the EFF are having, problems that may run for some time into the future.
While the Gauteng ANC leader, Premier Panyaza Lesufi, has said the two parties could work together in provincial politics (and even nationally, after next year’s elections), there is little evidence that this view is shared in the party. For the moment, it appears no ANC leaders outside Gauteng have said the party should work with the EFF.
While this does not necessarily mean the other ANC leaders do not believe they should work with the EFF, it is still significant.
Lesufi himself has indicated that conversations within the ANC about working with the EFF are very difficult. He has refused to say if President Cyril Ramaphosa is one of those who oppose working with EFF leader Julius Malema. But it seems likely that this is the case.
Limits to the relationship
While it may make sense for some in the ANC to work with the EFF, if only to stay in power, there must be limits to how far this can go.
Malema is able to extract the maximum concessions in power-sharing deals. The fact that his party has the majority of positions on the mayoral committee in Ekurhuleni is proof of this.
Any deal involving a province or national politics will surely involve positions. And if the ANC’s national leadership already refuse to allow their members to vote for an EFF person as mayor, will they accept EFF members in the Cabinet? Or an EFF member as Deputy President?
Many in the ANC are also likely to oppose EFF demands to dictate changes to national policy. For them, what would be the point of working with the EFF to stay in power, and then giving it that power?
And if the EFF does not get real power in an agreement with the ANC, then what is the point for the EFF of joining such an agreement?
It is worth repeating that some ANC voters may spurn the party if they think it will work with the EFF, while some EFF voters are likely to reject that party if they believe it will work with the ANC.
And of course, considering how the EFF has targeted Ramaphosa personally and directly, he and his supporters may refuse to work closely with them.
This provides a ripe opportunity for the likes of McKenzie. It also poses dangers for the EFF and the ANC.
Many on social media have poked fun at Mayor Amad for his comments in a recent interview. The response of his party leader, Ganief Hendricks, was to claim that the SABC board (when it is appointed) should act against Sakina Kamwendo, who conducted the interview. Somehow, he seems to believe that it is her fault Amad didn’t have any answers and is now trying to bully a television journalist.
He also claims that Amad was elected because he would be a good mayor. There is no evidence of this.
It is much more likely that the EFF and the ANC agreed to appoint Amad because they knew he was a weak candidate and they would be able to control him.
McKenzie would be a different kettle of fish. Not only is he a more capable operator than Amad, he is also a master populist, with his own constituency, and is a good media performer.
He would be likely to use the Joburg mayoral position to enlarge his power base. If he tries to claim quick wins, as he has attempted as mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality, this could help his party next year, to the detriment of the ANC and the EFF.
Also, his party has shown itself to be true to its promise to go with the people who will give them “the best deal”. McKenzie is unhampered by consistency and political principles. This gives him more freedom of movement than other parties — the PA can simply swing back and forth while extracting better deals from parties.
But this strategy has limits. And this may, in fact, be an important moment for local government and coalitions.
The DA previously worked with the PA, before the PA betrayed it and moved to the ANC-EFF grouping in Joburg, now burning both of the major groups in that city.
While these parties may be desperate for power, they will be loath to work with the PA again.
If these parties now refuse to work with McKenzie, it could be an important moment for the process of maturation in our politics. If the parties learn from their mistakes, it would be a lesson in why you cannot trust someone who is prepared to work with you by betraying someone else.
If that happens, McKenzie could find that he has reached the ceiling of his political power, and can go no higher. He will have run out of parties to work with.
But if the other parties are so desperate for power that they give in to his demands, the lack of principle and consistency will be rewarded all over again. There is no stable and mature political system one can build on normalised betrayal. The current chaos we have seen in local government would continue.
In the meantime, if the EFF and the ANC do wish to work together in provincial or national government, they clearly have much to do to improve their relationship. DM