South Africa


Mbalula’s distancing from partnering with EFF muddies SA’s turbulent political waters even further

Mbalula’s distancing from partnering with EFF muddies SA’s turbulent political waters even further
ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula at the unveiling of the 55th National Conference Resolutions at Luthuli House on 3 March 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

While many residents of Joburg have suffered through another weekend without water, there are more signs of tension between the two biggest parties in the coalition that currently governs South Africa’s biggest city.

Over the weekend, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said he believed the party’s working arrangements with the EFF in councils should end. He even hinted that the ANC should work with the DA. At the same time, ActionSA and several other opposition parties have said the DA needs to explicitly rule out ever working with the ANC, for their “Moonshot Pact” to work.

Over the past few weeks, there have been indications of problems in the relationship between the ANC and the EFF and the way they are working together in several Gauteng councils and metros. This is despite a claim last week by the ANC premier in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, that the ANC would work with the EFF to “crush” an upcoming confidence vote in Joburg’s Al Jama-ah mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda.

First, two weeks ago, News24 reported that Jongizizwe Dlabathi, the leader of the ANC caucus in Ekurhuleni, wrote to Mbalula and other officials that he believed there was “no strategic value” in working with the EFF. He said this was also because the EFF wanted to “liquidate” the ANC from power. 

The EFF holds the balance of power in the Ekurhuleni council and only ended up working with the ANC after previously voting for the DA’s Tania Campbell as mayor.

Then, this weekend, the Sunday Times quoted Mbalula as telling an ANC Youth League event that the ANC must pull out of its coalition arrangements with the EFF.

He was quoted as saying: “We must, as the ANC, review this marriage we have with them here in Johannesburg … We can’t go with people who want to see us out of power. We’d rather go with the DA, fully aware that here’s the enemy and then when we meet them after the election that will be it.”

Mbalula also said that EFF leader Julius Malema will only be in the Union Buildings next year “in his dreams”.

This is an important comment. Mbalula is the secretary-general of the party. In recent times, the person who holds this office has set the political tone. Mbalula would certainly have to be a part of the process of giving permission for ANC regions to agree to coalition deals with any other party.

It also seems unlikely that the ANC president would want to work with the EFF, given their history — President Cyril Ramaphosa chaired the final process that led to Malema’s expulsion from the party which was repaid over the decade with the EFF commander-in-chief’s personal and vicious attacks on him.

Mbalula’s statement suggests it would be harder for those in the ANC who do want to work with the EFF to convince the party’s leadership to do so — it is near impossible to push any decision through against a bloc formed by the party president and the secretary-general.

The Mashatile factor

At the moment, it appears that some leaders in Gauteng, such as Lesufi and probably Deputy President Paul Mashatile, are among those who do want to work with the EFF.

This may lead to an interesting dynamic, where the future direction of the ANC rests on whether Mashatile is able to achieve what his critics claim is his current aim: to assume power as the leader of the party.

Meanwhile, Mbalula’s comment about working with the DA is at least the second comment from someone in the party in this direction.

Earlier this year, the leader of the ANC’s Veterans’ League, Snuki Zikalala, made a similar comment, suggesting that working with the EFF is unstrategic.

The DA may now find itself in a difficult position.

It would appear contradictory, on the one hand, for it to continue courting smaller parties for its “Moonshot Pact”, while, on the other hand, being courted by the ANC.

But this position is entirely sustainable.

It is likely that virtually every party is going to have what US foreign policy officials call “strategic ambiguity”, where they refuse to be explicit about their real aims while waiting to assess the balance of power after the election itself.

Also, Mbalula could be attempting to apply pressure on the DA. Just by raising the issue, he puts the DA in a position where it has to answer questions about whom it will go with.

He is thus able to sow distrust among the smaller parties, essentially reminding them that the DA could drop them at the last moment.

The fact that DA leader John Steenhuisen has in the past spoken publicly about working with the ANC will surely help Mbalula here.

We are likely to see much of this kind of political language in the next few months, where parties publicly claim they could work with this or that party, when the real aim is to undermine possible coalitions.

At the same time, there is little evidence that Mbalula is a politician of principle, or is concerned about consistency. It is entirely possible that he will change his mind or his political direction in the next few months or even weeks. 

Until the day of voting next year, parties and their leaders will attempt to further instil a sense of distrust in many voters. Their aim will be to create as much political space for themselves as possible. They will engage in doublespeak, deliberate ambiguity and outright lies. Get the popcorn ready…

Unfortunately, none of this jockeying and gaming will help the residents of Joburg get water back in their taps. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Smythe says:

    Whatever the DA must do is NOT work with the ANC. Don’t be tempted by the devil. The ANC has also turned into flip-floppers and the left hand doesn’t agree with the right hand. If the DA is serious about the moonshot (for Pete’s sake, change the name!!), then they must double-down with the other parties to kick the ANC out of power. And make it known to all that the ANC is the enemy.
    Every effort must be made to rid the country of the deadly ANC disease.

    • R S says:

      Problem is with this situation is there are smaller parties which are willing to do anything as long as they get into power. See the PA, Al Jamah and EFF.

      The DA might have to consider a coalition with the ANC as a last resort, and I imagine it will come with some strict conditions if it’s ever to materialise.

      • lottinoleonardo says:

        Rowan, I agree 100% with Mike Mike. How can the DA even think about working with the ANC? Old Biblical verse in Afrikaans, Meng jy jou met die Semels dan eet die Varke jou ook op!! They are corrupt to the core and need to get out fast!

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      The Moon Shot Pact?? Not an bad name, nothing to wet your pants about.

    • Johan Buys says:

      Mike Mike:

      Mike, there is logic and then there is reality. There is FAR more chance that the Zupta clan in ANC backs ANC+EFF than ANC+liberal parties. In case it is not obvious : nothing less than a resounding ANC poll drop that compels it to align with liberal rather than EFF leaves me with hope for us. It also requires that the half dozen semi-rational parties check their egos at the door and put on their big girl panties and align under ABA : Anything But Anc.

      Having 20 parties plays EXACTLY into the hands of former prisoner zuma. Him and that spy guy must be chuckling at how perfectly the SA opposition parties play their game.

  • Ian McGill says:

    The ANC are crooks, finish and Claar. For thirty ruling years they have been hobbled by the SACP’s worn out Soviet/Sino Socialist clap trap and are blind to realities on the ground. Venezuela and Cuba are held as pin-ups to the “model” society hence the NHI being passed without a care of the consequences of pie-in-the-sky laws.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    It can never be forgotten that Mbalula is the idiot the village is missing & anything coming from his mouth cannot be taken seriously. What he is probably trying to do is call the EFF’s bluff whilst holding a couple of ‘2’s’ in his hand.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Politics is not, and never can be, the answer. Politics is just a long wish-list.

    It is good and competent management of increasingly scarce resources that will get us out of this deep hole that ANC cadre deployment, wishful thinking, corruption and incompetence has dug us into. We now need to very urgently prioritise and promote competence, integrity and ability to get things done rather than looking at political mates.

    Taxpayers are Gatvol – and just want progress and competence – no matter which party (why do we even need parties??) they come from, as, as soon as they put on their councillors hat (drawing on de Bono imagery) they should be applying their full capacity in serving the interests of citizens and NOT narrow party interests.

    • Gerrie Pretorius says:

      Well said Jon. We need a government that works for the benefit of all the people of SA, no matter the political affiliation. The anc has shown that it is totally incapable of governing. The Western Cape seems to be run a whole lot better than the rest of the country, which gives some direction of capability to the voters. The gatvol taxpayers (and those who want to pay tax, but don’t have jobs because of anc rule) will become revolutionary should there not be service delivery, that is sure.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Thanks for the heads up on Mbulul – no change there. But for the rest of it, you seem to be saying no one has a farts idea which way the wind will blow come 24. So why say it? I want DM to go deeper than the like of the ANC braindead, which includes the whole cabinet. What can DM tell us about moods and shifts in the political landscape and how it sees that playing out between now and the end of the year in preparation for the outrageous promises that will be made at year-end by all parties?

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