FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Who is Herman Mashaba trying to fool?


It is probably a career-saving grace for many in politics that being disingenuous is not career limiting.

Take outgoing Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, for example. He has told all and sundry that he is relinquishing his position and terminating his DA membership because Helen Zille is now the chairperson of the party’s federal council.

In the resignation statement which he read out he said: “The election of Helen Zille… represents a victory for people in the DA who stand diametrically opposed to my beliefs and value system, and I believe those of most South Africans of all backgrounds".

Who would have thought that a free market fundamentalist would quit political office because his party has been taken over by what he termed a right-wing element?

While Mashaba is obviously free to make decisions about all aspects of his life, including political membership, it would be kind of him to not assume that we suffer from collective amnesia.

Mashaba came to the DA on the back of his being a leader of the Free Market Foundation. He spent his own money fighting against labour law legislation that makes it illegal for employees to accept lower wages than the stipulated minimum wage.

Mashaba has vociferously expressed sentiments which sail very close to xenophobia. In fact, some have outright condemned him of being a xenophobe.

So, excuse me for taking his reasons for wanting to leave with more than just a pinch of salt. This author of a book titled Capitalist Crusader is the last person to lament right-wing politics.

It is possible that once he was in the mayoral chair, Mashaba started to appreciate just how problematic his previous beliefs, as evidenced by the examples I have just mentioned, were. Maybe being in such close proximity to the EFF has diluted his own right-wing attitudes.

If that is the case, he should say so. There is no shame in changing one’s mind as the facts change.

It is granted that being right wing is a spectrum. It ranges from ultra-nationalistic movements, fascists and religious fundamentalist to those who support limited state interference in business and economic life.

As things stand, Mashaba has not publicly repudiated his previously and publicly stated opinions with regards to the social and economic organisations of South Africa. It is fair to describe him as right wing, himself.

This is not commentary on whether being right wing is good or bad. The point here is that Mashaba should be honest about the reason he is choosing to step down – that is, if he is choosing to do so and not pre-empting being pushed.

It has hardly been five years since Mashaba was a devout libertarian and strong supporter of the same values he is accusing those who lobbied for Zille.

The IRR and the FMF, which Mashaba was elected chairperson of in 2012, stand for more-or-less the same values. In fact, it could be argued that the FMF, which he left in May 2014, is the more right wing of the two.

One is left with the conclusion that either Mashaba does not know what a right winger is, or he is just kettle calling the pot black to distract us from knowing the real reasons he quit.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.