DA touts Solly Msimanga as challenger to ANC’s Panyaza Lesufi in battle for Gauteng premiership
EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi may also throw his hat in the ring as parties gear up to contest the country’s economic hub ahead of the 2o24 national elections.
On Wednesday the DA announced Solly Msimanga as its premier candidate while the ANC is likely to continue with Panyaza Lesufi at the helm.
In the 2019 elections in Gauteng, the three biggest parties were the ANC, DA and EFF. The gap between the ANC and DA was significant — the governing party garnered 50.19% of the vote while the official opposition won only 27.45%.
The official opposition is anticipating that the ANC will slide beneath 50% support in Gauteng which will give them an opportunity to take over the province, just as they have in the Western Cape.
However, the entry of Gauteng-based parties like ActionSA and other community-based organisations could result in a spanner in the works for the top three political parties.
Political analyst Dr Ongama Mtimka believes Msimanga presents to the prospective DA voters in Gauteng a politician who has remained with the party for a long time and gives a sense of consistency and stability.
“This is crucial for the DA which has seen significant changes elsewhere in the country. His nomination also serves as a counter-narrative to the framing of the DA as increasingly anti-black.
“His work is cut out though as Panyaza Lesufi seems determined to fend off the threatened position of the ANC in the province and there are also equally competing alternatives for the cosmopolitan voters in the continent,” he said.
Analyst Asanda Ngoasheng said Msimanga is not a better candidate than Lesufi because of his alleged dodgy history which includes sexual harassment accusations. She added that the DA has not made significant headway in governing both Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.
“Solly has a checkered history which includes a sexual harassment case that was made to disappear and links to a dodgy business man than saw him beaten up. His governance of Tshwane did not take Tshwane to new heights and it’s currently just as badly governed as Johannesburg and facing the same issues that the ANC-led Johannesburg faces. The people of Ekurhuleni are still waiting to see the change the DA promised more than two months later,” according to Ngoasheng.
Ngoasheng describes Lesufi on the other hand as a leader who has been winning public favour and sentiment with his focus on safety and security — a big issue in Gauteng.
“He has also been seen to be working hard to provide jobs in a job-scarce country like South Africa. His attempts to build relationships with neighbourhood policing forums, his calls for action on illegal mining and lawbreakers in general are welcome statements to Gauteng citizens tired of facing crime with no government response. He does still face a dark cloud from his alleged involvement in dodgy tenders for schools during his term as MEC of education,” she said.
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DA leader John Steenhuisen stated that Msimanga is a serious contender whose experience speaks for itself. Speaking to Daily Maverick, Steenhuisen said that the DA has done polling to see if Msimanga is the right candidate.
“His name recognition is really high in Gauteng, it is obvious because this is where he has been practicing his politics for many many years, it stands us in good stead with the campaign that is about to unfold,” he said.
Msimanga was elected as mayor of Tshwane after the 2016 local elections through a coalition government between the DA and a number of smaller parties, with the informal backing of the EFF.
He stepped down as the mayor of Tshwane in 2019 in a bid to focus on his ambitions of being the provincial leader.
He was then appointed as the DA’s acting provincial leader after the departure of John Moodey. Msimanga was officially elected to the position at the DA’s virtual Gauteng conference in 2020.
Msimanga was later involved in a brawl in Benoni, Gauteng, after being accused of owing unidentified persons R1.4-million. A video which was making the rounds on social media in 2021 showed Msimanga bleeding from the mouth and head after an apparent physical fight. He is seen calling the police while his alleged assailant requests that he be paid back.
The DA went on to defend Msimanga, saying that he did not owe anyone money.
Msimanga was also involved in a row concerning the Auditor-General’s finding during his tenure as Tshwane mayor — that the awarding of the GladAfrica contract was indeed irregular. This process is part of the AG’s annual assessment of Tshwane’s financial performance.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Msimanga attacks City manager over GladAfrica tender
The auditor-general found, among other things, that the contract award was not compliant with Regulation 32. It was also found that the City procured beyond the scope and terms and conditions of the original contract the service provider had with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
The ANC’s Panyaza Lesufi is no stranger to the spotlight and has been the premier of Gauteng since last year after being voted in as the chairperson of the ANC in the province.
While the ANC has not officially announced him as their candidate, it is likely that he will be touted for the position.
Since he was appointed as the premier this caused a stir through his employment projects Nasi Ispani and the hiring of crime prevention wardens.
Lesufi first announced the creation of a new cadre of crime-busters, in his inaugural State of the Province address in February 2023, as part of his revamped anti-crime strategy. However, reports have shown that he might have flouted processes in the hiring of these wardens.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Whistle blower says Gauteng crime-prevention wardens are unprepared and unqualified
The Nasi Ispani initiative is part of the Gauteng Provincial Government’s (GPG) project to fight against unemployment in the province. The programme received a record 1.2 million applications for 8,000 job vacancies across Gauteng government departments.
Previously, Lesufi served as the Gauteng MEC for Education from May 2014 until October 2022. This changed briefly when he was appointed as the Gauteng MEC for Finance and e-Government in May of 2019, but returned to the MEC of education post a day after a public outcry.
Lesufi is also a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature as well as a member of the South African Communist Party. He served as the acting MEC of Social Development following the death of Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe in November 2019 until the appointment of Nomathemba Mokgethi in June 2020.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi a possible candidate?
Meanwhile, EFF leader Julius Malema’s recent utterances have sparked debate about the possibility of MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi entering the fray.
Speaking to party members last week, Malema urged them to aim higher when looking to assume office and to look for minister rather than deputy positions.
“You want to be anything Doctor Ndlozi, (I don’t know), prepare to be Premier in Gauteng. Not anything less than that,” he said.
Ndlozi has been a Member of the National Assembly since 2014, representing the Economic Freedom Fighters. He served as the first official spokesperson for the party until his resignation in 2020. He was subsequently announced as the head of the party’s political education.
Of the three candidates, Lesufi has the most experience in provincial government, while Msimanga has only been in the provincial legislature and Ndlozi has yet to work in government. However, in terms of academic qualifications, Ndlozi comes out on top having bagged his Ph.D. in Political Sociology at the University of Witwatersrand in 2017.
Bringing the Western Cape to Gauteng
DA leader John Steenhuisen said he would be replicating the Western Cape’s governance model in Gauteng. He explained that this was a better alternative to the ANC+ EFF+ Patriotic Alliance “doomsday” coalition at local level.
“This requires the DA in this province to take our game to a whole new level. We will need to work much harder to register every single eligible DA voter. If we want to ensure not only that the ANC loses next year but that the DA wins, we will need to campaign every waking moment of every day.
He also criticised small parties who work with the ANC calling them “sellouts and traitors”.
“If you want to avoid the chaos that has made Johannesburg ungovernable from spreading to the whole of Gauteng next year, then you must unite behind the DA. We have seen over and over again how small parties like the Patriotic Alliance.
“They are parasites who care only about positions and patronage. It is time for the people of Gauteng — and the people of South Africa — to turn their backs on the small parties that are hellbent on undermining stability and the Multi-Party Charter for their own selfish gain,” said Steenhuisen. DM