In August 2016, the DA went into coalition government in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay to save these cities from imminent collapse under corrupt ANC governments, which were fast destroying them. In two years, the coalition governments arrested the decline in all three cities and have laid a solid foundation for future progress.
Coalitions can be a force for good, and are standard international practice in many democracies, most notably Germany. In South Africa, coalitions will be the key to unseating the ANC and freeing the country from liberation movement politics, just as they did in Kenya. The ANC’s tripartite alliance is itself a coalition that came together to wrest power from the apartheid government.
The EFF was never part of the DA-led coalition but they supported us, claiming to share a common objective of releasing the three metros from the ANC’s corrupt grip. This week, however, they moved to return Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane to the ANC. The political events that unfolded are revealing. They give the South African voter valuable insights ahead of the upcoming national election in 2019.
On Tuesday, the EFF and UDM voted with the ANC to remove the DA-led coalition in NMB. The DA has challenged the legality of the process and is awaiting a ruling. But either way, the message is clear: the ANC, EFF and UDM are acting in their own narrow interests and against the best interests of NMB residents.
The numbers in NMB speak for themselves. On taking over the council from the ANC in August 2016, the DA-led coalition inherited an administration that was R2 billion in debt. The extent of corruption in the city was well documented in Crispian Olver’s book, How to Steal a City. Two years later, the city has a R615 million surplus and an AAA credit rating.
The DA-run coalition had kept its promise to fight corruption, deliver better services and create jobs in NMB. Among other achievements, it had terminated R650 million worth of corrupt contracts, eradicated 60% of all bucket toilets in the metro and attracted millions of rands of private investment to the City, as well as tripled the number of EPWP jobs. It had introduced a metro police which had shown impressive results in fighting crime, and it had taken NMB from being second least to second most trusted metro in SA (after Cape Town).
The only logical conclusion to draw is that in handing the metro back to the ANC, the EFF and UDM are motivated by narrow, political considerations and is willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of NMB residents who were just beginning to reap the fruits of good governance after decades of ANC neglect, attested to by no less than then president Zuma in 2017 when he said: “Of all the metros, I won’t talk about the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, because you know all about it. We ruined it for years, bit by bit. Now the opposition is in charge. We cannot say we are surprised by that.”
The ANC is clearly motivated by the need to gain access to state resources to fund its 2019 election campaign and to feed its patronage network. ANC regional treasurer admitted last month: “Let me scare you immediately – asinamali (we are broke).”
But it’s not just why the coup was attempted, but how, that is so indicting.
Two of the ANC councilors, Andile Lungisa and Bongo Nombiba, are convicted criminals. In the case of Nombiba, his leave to appeal was denied. So, he should be in jail, not determining the futures of NMB residents. That the ANC and EFF are prepared to let the fate of an entire city rest on the votes of convicted criminals shows their contempt for the rule of law and for the people of NMB.
And why is a convicted criminal who has been denied leave to appeal not in jail? One can only conclude that the ANC put pressure on SAPS to delay arresting Nombiba until after he could exercise his vote, a shameful abuse of state resources.
A successful coup also required the abstention of DA councilor, Victor Manyathi, who is charged with fraud (though is not yet convicted so was still able to vote). It would be naïve not to speculate that Manyathi was lured by promises of legal assistance and a political future in the ANC. Unfortunately in SA, councilors are vulnerable to being bribed, a practice which strongly undermines democracy, underscoring the central importance of rigorous vetting during the councilor selection process.
Further disregarding the interests of NMB residents, the ANC, EFF and UDM then proceeded to elect lone UDM Councilor Mongameli Bobani as mayor. Crispian Olver has labeled Bobani a “deeply corrupt man….. a very shrewd operator who covers his tracks carefully and no one has been able to make a corruption charge stick to him”.
Bobani promptly appointed Andile Lungisa to head up infrastructure and engineering, a searing insult to residents, considering that as an ordinary member he failed to attend a single committee meeting since 2016. Even more alarming, Olver reckons "Lungisa….is no stranger to personal enrichment. He is also fighting a political campaign to keep himself out of jail and resuscitate the Zuma faction in Nelson Mandela Bay. It's alarming to see that he was given infrastructure and engineering as that portfolio deals with the Bus Rapid Transfer system and all the City's engineering contracts."
ANC President Ramaphosa and Luthuli House are yet to make any comment at all, which must be taken as a tacit endorsement of this callous disregard for people’s interests. Of course, they are keenly aware that if the DA-led coalition were to govern for the whole five-year term, the DA would be given a full mandate from voters at the next local election in 2021, as happened in Cape Town in 2011 after five years of coalition government there.
Experience in Cape Town and in the three metros where the DA has led coalitions show that coalitions can work and are a powerful mechanism to shift power away from the hegemonic ANC if the coalition partners all share the same core values.
In the case of the DA’s coalition with COPE, ACDP, IFP, FF+ and UDM, the agreement was that we would stay true to the principles of respect for the rule of law including a zero tolerance of corruption, and commitment to building a capable state that delivers to all.
The DA, COPE, ACDP, IFP and FF+ met today and reaffirmed our commitment to those principles and to the coalition. The UDM has shown itself to be tolerant of corruption, so we will be approaching them to discuss the way forward.
Coalitions are only a force for good when partners are bound together by the power of principle. Which is why the new coalition of corruption between the ANC and EFF does not bode well for South Africa.
The DA is extremely keen to govern more and more councils in South Africa, to bring change that improves peoples’ lives, and to prove to voters that we are willing and able to do this. But we are not willing to surrender our principles, and if that is what is required to remain in government, then we would rather walk away. That is why we have stood firm against expropriation without compensation, despite the EFF’s threats to unseat us in the metros.
We at the DA stand ready to govern to the best of our ability. We stand by our commitment to bring honest, capable government to the people of SA. We are willing to work in coalition because we know it can be a powerful force for good in improving lives. But ultimately, it’s up to voters to determine their government and their future. This week’s shenanigans should inform their choices.