ON Tuesday 2 May there will be another opportunity to bring down the ANC/EFF coalition in the Johannesburg metro.
A few months ago, a spiteful Patriotic Alliance (PA) of Gayton McKenzie ended the leadership of one of the City of Gold's best mayors, Mpho Phalatse of the DA, by forming an opportunistic coalition with, among others, the ANC and the EFF.
Since then, McKenzie's relationship with the EFF has soured and he has declared himself willing to pull the political rug from under the next new mayor, Thapelo Amad of Al Jama-ah, specifically after it became clear that this local activist for the Palestinian cause was never really up to the task of running Johannesburg.
The hopeless and helpless Amad finally jumped before he could be pushed by means of a motion of no confidence, leaving Johannesburg without anyone at the wheel for the umpteenth time.
And in this undramatic way, the devilish conspiracy between Panyaza Lesufi and Julius Malema to exploit the City of Gold's budget for party gain in the run-up to the 2024 elections was brought to an end. Without the PA's unreliable loyalty, the position of the ANC and the EFF on the city council is extremely fragile.
The DA, on the other hand, is in the unenviable position that they may have to get back into the coalition bed with McKenzie the political highway robber. This after Helen Zille and John Steenhuisen repeatedly and without mincing words banished this “corrupt and unreliable criminal" to the political “kitchen".
In their defence, they are not the only South Africans who find the mayor of Beaufort West to be politically gross.
Phalatse back on that ego altar?
After some underhanded gossip with those involved in the negotiations, I have come to the following conclusion regarding the likely result of the mayoral election on 2 May:
The metro has 270 councillors. Or rather, only 269 at the moment, because one ANC ward is vacant. Any coalition that wants its candidate to become mayor therefore requires 135 votes.
If the DA goes along with Corné Mulder's and Herman Mashaba's proposals, the multi-party coalition currently on the opposition benches has exactly 130 votes. But the ANC/EFF coalition has 131. All of these exclude the PA's eight council members. The multi-party coalition is therefore five votes short of electing a mayor from their ranks. Add in the PA's eight and they're there, but the problem is that the DA doesn't want to go along with the PA without near-impossible conditions applying.
McKenzie was kind enough to show the PA's hand to Mulder: it will be possible to establish a coalition that could uproot the ANC and the EFF. However, the DA's smoke-and-mirrors approach confuse their traditional coalition partners. Not only did the DA turn down the PA's support, but they also nominated a mayoral candidate of their own without consulting their traditional coalition partners.
If the DA is to defend its own “values" in a principled way and at any cost – and wants to walk the road alone – then Zille and Steenhuisen will have to be cruel enough to inflict a second headshot to Phalatse's political career. She is their proposed candidate for mayor, but her candidacy is doomed without a compromise with either the PA or the ANC.
By itself, the DA has only 71 votes out of the available 269. Phalatse desperately wants to involve the PA. She believes she can free Johannesburg from the toxic vapour surrounding Malema and Lesufi. Yet Zille and Steenhuisen insist that the PA also end all other coalition agreements with the ANC.
Johannesburg's taxpayers keep watching this superficial altercation between power-hungry egos with morbid fixation. The city is on its knees and simply cannot continue to exist under an ANC/EFF coalition. The infrastructure is collapsing or casually stolen by drive-by looters.
To complicate things further, it now appears that the ANC, like the DA, will nominate a candidate from its own ranks on 2 May. If the multi-party coalition without the DA also nominates a candidate, the cat will be set among the pigeons.
Without the DA, the multi-party coalition has just 59 votes. It's a secret ballot and in all likelihood, there will have to be more than one round of voting. And, as Habakkuk said to Nebuchadnezzar in the afterglow, “Who knows what might happen in a secret ballot?"
For Phalatse to fall out in the first round would require only a few rebellious councillors who vote for a candidate other than the one decreed by their party. The predicament then for the DA would be that they will either have to abstain from voting in the second round or vote for the ANC's candidate. Or, dear oh dear, they will be forced to vote for the candidate of the multi-party coalition – which includes the PA.
The fly in the compromise ointment
In a letter to McKenzie dated 22 April 2023, Steenhuisen wrote, “We intend to continue and engage in discussions with parties that broadly share our values." In a letter to Mashaba on the same date, Steenhuisen wrote: “It is our desire to start a new conversation about coalitions in South Africa."
Despite opposition parties repeatedly indicating that they take offence when the leader of the DA refers to the party's “values", it is solemnly but honestly welcomed that Steenhuisen is willing to talk to McKenzie about coalitions.
However, the conditions the DA has set, and its lack of pragmatism, make a compromise almost impossible.
In a letter on 23 April 2023, McKenzie once more requested Steenhuisen to rethink the degrading reference to the DA's distinctive values: “This may surprise you, but the DA does not have a monopoly on good values and how such values are defined. The PA will not be told we are short on virtue simply because we refuse to be bullied by other parties, yours included."
I was not altogether surprised to read that Steenhuisen apparently invited McKenzie to pay him a personal and official visit. In fact, he apparently did so more than once in recent weeks. This despite Zille and Steenhuisen making it clear that they consider McKenzie an “unreliable criminal" with whom only the devil would make a deal.
Behind the scenes: Rob Hersov
Well, enter stage left: Rob Hersov! This rock star entrepreneur from the New Right and favourite online interlocutor of BizNews editor Alec Hogg recently directed an interesting public letter to Steenhuisen. He makes a plea for peaceful coexistence between McKenzie and Steenhuisen in what he calls a “Dear John". He berates Steenhuisen for his dismissive attitude towards McKenzie.
It is therefore a logical inference to draw that Hersov, someone who undermines his own opinions by exaggerating its context, was in this way the driving force behind the DA leader's request to McKenzie to visit him in his office in Cape Town and later in Johannesburg.
Following these two invitations, McKenzie wrote to Steenhuisen: “I was under the impression that you had reached out to me for the purpose of initiating discussions. But perhaps I misunderstood you as to why I was asked to attend an in-person meeting with you in Cape Town. It was just after the long weekend, and I really had no plans to travel to Cape Town."
Hersov was probably not impressed with the first conversation in Cape Town, and a second invitation was extended to McKenzie, to which the PA leader later referred in his letter to Steenhuisen: “And another meeting at your offices in Johannesburg a week and a half later, when I actually had no plans to be in Johannesburg. In a collegial spirit and despite the many insults you and your party have hurled at my party and me personally over the past two years, I have attended in good faith."
Hersov's flirting with McKenzie is peculiar. He has a lot of money and some even claim he has some influence in the shadowy circles of contrarian politics.
His resentment in the ANC and the EFF is undisguised; his disapproval in the person of Cyril Ramaphosa knows no bounds. Yet he finds McKenzie socially and politically irresistible, and his New Right discourse resonates with Zille and Steenhuisen's anti-woke fixations.
Hersov is equally undisguised in his admiration of the DA – but also of Orania, which he lyrically articulated in an interview with Izak du Plessis: “What those 3 000 Afrikaans-speaking Christians from Orania did is extraordinarily impressive. It's a model for the world. This is the future of representation, government, freedom, and democracy. Israel and Orania have much in common."
Well, there you have it. But let me be honest: If Hersov and McKenzie can save Johannesburg from the ANC and the EFF, I believe the end would have justified the means.
The ANC/DA scenario
By the way, both Hersov and McKenzie often point out that they are very aware of the fact that Zille harbours the strategic thought that an ANC/DA coalition after 2024 can be imagined. The theoretical assumption here is that the ANC may well become alienated from the EFF, should a political bromance between Steenhuisen and Ramaphosa materialise.
It is beyond me how the DA, while refusing to partner with McKenzie's “corrupt PA" in Johannesburg, can envision a coalition with the ANC.
In his letter to Steenhuisen, McKenzie quite rightly points to the inconsistencies of the DA's position in this regard: “Allow me to also point out the inherent hypocrisies in your letter, since one moment you tell the South African public that you regard a coalition between the ANC and the EFF as a Doomsday that must be prevented at any cost, while at the same time toying with the idea of a coalition with the ANC."
‘Hi John, how are you?’
McKenzie then reveals a willingness likely stemming from Hersov's conversations with Zille and his Dear John to Steenhuisen: “You didn't invite the PA to the Moonshot Pact discussions, despite my public statements that I'm willing to come to the table with you and the other parties ahead of next year's election." And he points to a stark contradiction in Steenhuisen's logic: “Yet you invited parties like the UDM, who did not want to position themselves unambiguously outside of the ANC, to the discussions."
McKenzie's last poetic words to the leader of the DA are promising, yearning and striking: “Nevertheless, unlike you, I will answer the phone if you call me again. Of course I will give a big sigh first. But then I'll pick up and say, ‘Hi John, how are you?' Maybe one day we can overcome the much lower barrier of working together, once you have gotten over yourself."
♦ VWB ♦
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