Mashaba resignation puts focus on DA coalition stance

Herman Mashaba described the DA’s decision over the weekend to review its coalition agreements as tantamount to the party declaring itself to be unsuitable for the future.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane (left) attends a briefing where Herman Mashaba (right) announces his resignation as Johannesburg mayor on 21 October. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – With just over a year to go before South Africans head to the polls in the 2021 local government elections, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) position on coalitions appeared to be in tatters.

Political experts and former President Kgalema Motlanthe have in the past emphasised the likelihood of a rise in coalition governments as an outcome of the polls.

However, with Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba having resigned on Monday over the DA’s position on the issue and party leader Mmusi Maimane stating that they would maintain such agreements, it was clear the DA was still struggling to come to terms with coalition governments.

Mashaba described the DA’s decision over the weekend to review its coalition agreements as tantamount to the party declaring itself to be unsuitable for the future.

He cited varying views on race-related policies and the decision to revisit partnerships with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) among his reasons for his resignation.

“With this grouping of people succeeding in their effort to take over the DA, I have no doubt whatsoever that they will move to collapse these governance arrangements. At the heart of the matter will be the pro-poor agenda that this multiparty government has executed,” Mashaba said.

But, Maimane said the DA would maintain the agreements.

“Even as tough as it is, we never got an outright majority and it became important that we work with parties so that we can advance that dream,” he said.

However, this was contrary to a decision made by the party to delay discussions on coalitions until its policy congress next year. The panel review report on the DA’s dismal performance in this year’s elections recommended that the party reassess its partnerships.

The EFF held the keys to the DA’s control of Joburg and Tshwane, including other smaller municipalities.

WATCH: ‘This is why I resigned’: 5 quotes from Herman Mashaba

Meanwhile, Mashaba’s resignation as Joburg mayor as well as from the DA had put a spanner in the works to the apparent divisions in the party. He said the DA that emerged out of this past weekend’s Federal Council - where Helen Zille was elected Federal Council chair (FedCo) - was not the party he signed up for.

“I have spent the past three years in government working tirelessly to rise above party politics in an attempt to unite a broad coalition. The events of this weekend have left me at a crossroads where I can no longer ignore the internal dynamics of the DA and the continued attempts to undermine my pro-poor agenda in the City of Johannesburg,” Mashaba said.

“I am now in a position where I am forced to choose between my party and my country. As a patriot, I will always choose my country first,” he added.

The outgoing mayor’s assessment of the DA was frank for those who supported Maimane and harsh for those who identify as allies of Zille.

Mashaba’s resignation apparently heightened divisions in the party with leaders divided on whether he should be allowed to serve out his notice period given his lack of confidence in the organisation.

Zille’s supporters were expected to charge against Maimane for “celebrating the man who was trashing the DA”.

The DA’s federal executive was expected to sit on Wednesday to decide on the way forward for the City of Johannesburg, and party leaders on opposing sides told Eyewitness News they were readying for a fight.

Unfortunately, this fight may cost the DA dearly with local government elections around the corner.

WATCH: Full speech - Herman Mashaba resigns as Joburg Mayor