A blatant disregard for hard-working forces on the ground and the lack of a transformative vision for South Africa by the DA have forced the party’s disgruntled proportional representation councillor in wards 105 and 106 in Alexandra, Gauteng, Shadrack Mkhonto, to jump ship and join ActionSA, a party recently formed by former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
“I handed in my resignation yesterday [March 2],” he told City Press on Wednesday morning, just hours before he released his statement announcing his departure from the main opposition party. “I was no longer happy with the organisation itself and how things were happening. I have been one of the most hard-working councillors in Johannesburg – more so in Alexandra – if not in the country, in the whole constituency of the DA.”
Mkhonto, who became a member of the DA after cutting ties with the ANC in 2000, likened his relationship with the DA to a failed marriage. “After 20 years in the DA, and almost a decade as a councillor, I realised that it was time I divorced the DA because, even in marriage, there comes a time when there is no longer a sense of synergy or cooperation, and a split is imminent. So, I took the step and joined ActionSA because I no longer saw a future with the DA,” explained the 59-year-old who has been active in politics since 1988.
In his statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Mkhonto said: “The DA I joined in 2000 has changed, again. It no longer represents an organisation that I believe can take our country to new heights; one that can remove the ANC from power and offer our people new direction and opportunity to grow our country.”
According to Mkhonto, recent developments, including but not limited to “the election of Helen Zille, began to force me to question my continued stay as both councillor and member of the DA”.
His move sees the DA lose another member, following the resignations of: Gauteng leader John Moodey at the beginning of September; Tshwane regional chair Abel Tau; chief executive Paul Boughey; Johannesburg leader Funzela Ngobeni; and DA Youth Johannesburg chairperson Lincoln Machaba, who all subsequently joined Mashaba.
To this, the ActionSA leader told City Press: “As I have always maintained, the majority of people in ActionSA are good people. We joined the DA because we thought the party shared our values; we thought the party cared about black people. But once people realise what the DA is really about, we are not going to turn them down.”
Mashaba also expressed his excitement at having “one of the most hard-working people I know join us. We have always called him [Mkhonto] the mayor of Alexandra. He already has about 1 000 people registered with us. I feel humbled, and his joining us gives me the inspiration that we have the support of the people on the ground in this fight.”
In 2016, Mkhonto was voted the best councillor of the year within his party’s councillors who work in the City of Johannesburg. While he received an award at the caucus of the DA for, among other things, hiring plumbers to build resident’s toilets, as well as organising materials to rebuild burnt shacks, and food parcels and accommodation for the victims of fires, Mkhonto told City Press that his hard work had not transpired through growth within the party.
“In politics, we get selected to go to Parliament or to province. Or to go to any position of being MMC or chairperson within local government. So, my being a hard worker and nationally recognised for it, there was never any upward mobility for me in the DA.
“They can tell you, in Alexandra I am called ‘the Mayor of Alex’ because of work that I do. I am called ‘the councillor without borders’. I assist everybody regardless of their political affiliation.
“Over the years, things just kept on getting worse in the DA, where people were being pushed into higher positions than mine, having not done the hard work or any groundwork yet, getting recognition because they belong to a certain affiliation.”
This after Mkhonto stood for the position of ward councillor for ward 105 in the 2016 municipal elections and emerged unsuccessful.
“Even without the recognition from my own party, and a lack of upward movement and growth for me, I continued doing the work as I knew how, doing my best to serve the community, because politics is all about service delivery and serving the community,” he said.
“Even as a leader, an ambassador and a spokesperson for the DA in Alexandra, it became difficult for me to comfortably campaign for the DA because of what the party had become. I found myself being powerless even to proudly wear the blue T-shirt and campaign and do door-to-doors for the party.”
Having previously worked with Mashaba, Mkhonto said that, while “I looked at all the parties and the issues facing the country currently in terms of unemployment, corruption and illegal immigrants in the country, as well as the state of the electoral process, my mind was set on ActionSA.
“When I looked at the policies of ActionSA around some of these issues, I thought to myself, if Mashaba can pull this off, the country will be a much better place. And I looked back at his time as mayor and what he did and going beyond the policies of the DA to assist the black community – there was no doubt in my mind that this was the right party for me.”
Mashaba told City Press: “His [Mkhonto’s] goal is to become a ward councillor of ward 105 in Alex, and obviously that is not something that will happen automatically. When joining the party, you go through the primaries first, and it is up to him now to work hard as he always has so that, by the time we run the primaries, the people of 105 elect him, because we are not the ones who are going to decide who becomes a ward councillor. That is the decision of the community.”