Elections 2021: DA’s John Steenhuisen plunges opposition parties’ coalition talks into chaos
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Johannesburg – DA leader John Steenhuisen’s refusal to vote for ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba as mayor of the City of Joburg has plunged a coalition partnership of opposition parties into a crisis but has given the ANC an opportunity to court some of the aggrieved parties.
The latest cracks in the opposition parties happen while the ANC today, Sunday, hold its extended national executive committee (NEC) to make their final preparations of their coalition deals for major metros in Gauteng and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.
However, the ANC NEC meeting is expected to be overshadowed by a planned protest action by its staff members, who have not been paid their salaries for more than four months or more. These aggrieved staffers have organised to meet outside Luthuli House - ANC headquarters in Joburg, and travel together to St George’s Hotel in Irene, Centurion in Pretoria, to demand their salaries and payments to third parties.
While they will be expected to deal with the non-payment of salaries, some of their coalition talks troubles have already eased, as the party bigwigs have already concluded smooth deals with the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal.
Both parties have agreed to support each where each got higher votes in a particular municipality. The situation is different in Gauteng metros of Joburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, as none of its traditional coalition partners, the IFP, the African Independent Congress (ANC), Al Jama-ah, the PAC and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) in the three metros would guarantee them control of the metros.
The ANC’s ambition to control all of them was further dampened by the EFF’s decision to rule out any coalition with them in all the metros and in other small hung municipalities in the country.
However, insiders believe that tensions within the opposition parties could be an opportunity for them to open talks today ahead of the sitting of the council meeting in Joburg tomorrow, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni on Tuesday.
The possibility of talks, insiders say, could also force the ANC to suspend the announcement of their mayoral candidates, particularly, in the metros for possible power-sharing deals including in Nelson Mandela Bay. The ANC and DA have the same number of seats.
As the Tuesday’s deadline for 257 municipalities to set up stable local government nears - opposition parties comprising ActionSA, the UDM, Cope, ACDP and Freedom Front Plus have given the DA an ultimatum to commit to their coalition agreement to put the ANC out of power in Tshwane and Joburg or go alone in contesting for mayoral positions in both metros.
The partners’ outrage came after Steenhuisen publicly, without consulting his coalition partners, announced that his party would not support Mashaba’s nomination.
In his address to his party supporters and the media, Steenhuisen said: “In other words, even if we do put together a minority coalition government in Johannesburg, the EFF would have to vote with us in order to enable us to take decisions, pass budgets and bring a stable government. The coalition will therefore be subject to the whims and demands of the EFF.
“The EFF has already said they intend to stay outside the coalition, and merely give us their vote when we do things that they agree with.
“So inevitably, the EFF tail will wag the coalition dog in Johannesburg,” Steenhuisen said.
His announcement has not only angered his coalition partners but some of his DA supporters in Tshwane and Joburg who were desperately looking forward for their party to retain control of Tshwane and a minority party controlled governance in Joburg.
Some of the aggrieved DA members were of the view that Steenhuisen’s announcement was apparently an instruction from Zille.
“They (Zille and Steenhuisen) are not interested in what happens in Joburg and Tshwane. Their interests lies in Cape Town and in other municipalities where the party received outright majority,” one of the sources said.
ANC NEC member Dakota Legoete also predicted a fallout in talks between opposition parties during an interview with Enca on Friday night.
Due to the tensions - the opposition parties have urged Steenhuisen to reconsider his decision.
“As a group, the multi-party group calls upon the DA to honour its commitment to keep the ANC out of these municipalities by engaging with potential coalition partners in good faith.
“The multi-party group believes that it is of utmost importance and in the best interest of the electorate to keep the ANC out of government,” the parties said.