South Africa

ANALYSIS

Together in electric dreams — ANC and EFF still looking for ways to work together

Together in electric dreams — ANC and EFF still looking for ways to work together
ANC flags displayed at Nasrec on 7 December 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | An Economic Freedom Fighters flag on 16 June 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Tebogo Letsie)

Whether the ANC and the EFF can work together in government is a dominant political debate at the moment — and more evidence is emerging that the two parties are finding it difficult to work together. While they still elect small-party mayors in some councils, it is likely that these mayors will continue to cause embarrassment for all involved.

On Friday, the councillors from the ANC and the EFF elected Gary van Niekerk from the grandly named Northern Alliance as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay.

There is much significance in this. It appears to be the first time that the ANC and the EFF outside of Gauteng have elected a person from a smaller party as part of their strategy of not voting for each other’s mayoral candidates. In recent months, the ANC and the EFF have elected councillors from smaller parties as mayors in Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Mogale City, as part of what they say is part of a plan to practise working together in national government.

At the time, this practice appeared to be limited to Gauteng and driven by the ANC’s Gauteng leader, Premier Panyaza Lesufi. Now it appears that ANC leaders in other provinces are prepared to work with the EFF.

There are clearly problems with this relationship.

Van Niekerk said on Monday morning that he would include members of the ANC and the EFF in his mayoral committee and would announce its new members at noon that day. This he failed to do and instead promised to make the announcement on Tuesday.

This follows a pattern of problems when the ANC and the EFF try to work together.

The most infamous of these was in Ekurhuleni, where the African Transformation Movement’s (ATM’s) Sivuyile Ngodwana was elected mayor but was unable to have his mayoral committee sworn in for at least three weeks.

Worse was to come, after the councillors from the ANC and the EFF  attacked each other after EFF leader Julius Malema claimed ANC members were “thieves” who had stolen trucks belonging to the council. The ANC then pointed out that the EFF councillors had in fact voted in favour of a resolution to scrap the vehicles.

List of demands

Now, the EFF has proposed a budget for the council, but the ANC has issued a list of demands, saying they will not back the budget unless those demands are met, including one that about R20-billion of money owed by residents to the council should be written off.

If the EFF accedes to this, it may lead to the council running out of money while the EFF is in control of the finance portfolio. The ATM’s Ngodwana hasn’t made any public comment about the divisions between these two parties.

Meanwhile, in Joburg, the two parties have run into trouble as well. First, they elected Thapelo Amad from Al Jama-ah as mayor. He resigned after a train-smash interview with the SABC’s Sakina Kamwendo.

Then they elected Kabelo Gwamanda from the same party. He has refused to answer questions and accept interview requests. The one interview he did give, with EWN, saw him refusing to answer questions about his qualifications.

Then, at the weekend, City Press reported that the Joburg Speaker, Cope’s Colleen Makhubele (who has supported the ANC and the EFF in these plans), had written to Gwamanda, demanding to know why he failed to attend community meetings.

She says that he has failed to live up to this commitment to serve the people of Joburg. She also says that all of the councillors he appointed to his mayoral committee have also failed to come to these meetings.

This leads to questions about whether Gwamanda is, in fact, up to the job. If he is unable to do simple interviews or attend community meetings where he is expected, what does this suggest about his performance as mayor? And if he cannot even get the members of his mayoral committee to make public appearances, then what can he achieve?

It is obvious that the Gwamandas or Van Niekerks or Ngodwanas of the political world are not able to do much — if anything. As was almost universally predicted when the ANC and the EFF started this dynamic, those who end up wearing a mayoral chain under these circumstances simply do not have any power.

What needs to be asked is whether the ANC and the EFF will be able to work more productively together. 

Considering how the two are relating to each at the moment, there is clearly room for improvement. But there does not appear to be any evidence that they are moving closer together, or even trying to. Rather, they seem to be trying to use the positions that they are in to put the opposite side under more pressure and draw benefits for themselves. Certainly, that is the case in Ekurhuleni.

It is unclear whether any of these informal coalitions are able to achieve anything other than clinging to power. There is no evidence that anything has been achieved by the ANC and the EFF working together.

This will strengthen the perception among many voters that councillors are driven by narrow, personal interests.

The next important question is whether voters will punish the parties who behave in such a selfish way. This is still unknown and voters will have different views on what is currently playing out in our councils.

But it is likely that many voters will just give up on local politics, with terrible consequences.

In the meantime, despite the fact that next year’s elections are ever closer, the dynamic between the ANC and the EFF is likely to remain contentious. With no public evidence that the two parties are trying to work more closely together in a constructive way that could lay a blueprint for coalitions in provincial or national government next year, the post-2024 cards still remain to be dealt. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    The EFF has no interest in working with the ANC other than on its own terms. The current dysfunction we see in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni & NMB causes absolutely no damage to the EFF amongst its support base, only to the ANC. Indeed the EFF are increasingly growing their reputation as Kingmakers. That the ANC allow themselves to be manipulated (50% plus support base versus 12%) is reflective of how internally weak, divided, desperate & dysfunctional they are. Julius knows this, plays to this & is banking on governance getting worse at Provincial & National level because this will only make the ANC more desperate & strengthen his own bargaining position with them!

  • Heinrich Heiriss says:

    Sivuyile Ngodwana is from the AIC, not ATM.

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