SATURDAY PROFILE | Herman Mashaba: If what Helen Zille is saying is true, 'she is complicit'

Former City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.
Former City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.
Tebogo Letsie, Gallo Images

Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba believes the DA has deserted the values of non-racialism in South Africa, and that the ANC went into exile to loot the country.


Herman Mashaba believes DA federal chairperson Helen Zille would be complicit if the allegations she made against him are true.

Zille, who's return to politics last year sparked Mashaba's resignation as a DA member, last week accused the former City of Johannesburg mayor of using his position to, among other things, increase the salary of his former chief of staff Michael Beaumont, and favouring the EFF.

Mashaba vehemently denies the allegations, and asks why Zille, "if she's a genuine person" and the allegations are true, did not speak out during his three-year term as mayor.

"If that is true, what she is saying, that means she is complicit to this, that they knew about this all along," Mashaba says, shaking his head.

"Why then did she condone it at the time when we were DA members? That says to me that as long as you're a DA member and you will connive with them, she will support you." 

I think if that is true, what she's saying, she's then complicit, directly complicit.

Mashaba, speaking to News24 in a video call from his home in Atholl, Sandton, had a two-hour root canal surgery earlier the morning, but laughs and says he managed to sleep it off. "At least the pain is gone."

The now leader of the People's Dialogue, with plans to launch his own political party in August, had back-to-back meetings for the rest of the afternoon, and was expected to attend the virtual launch of his biography Herman Mashaba – The Accidental Mayor later the evening.

The new biography, written by Beaumont who now works for Mashaba's movement, alleges that Zille texted the former mayor for an interview on her Tea with Helen podcast a day after he resigned in a bid to vindicate herself. 

The book also alleges that Zille, after Mashaba resigned, told councillors the "DA is a 20% party" when they tried to retain control of the City of Johannesburg, and must instead focus on the traditional support base. She also allegedly tried to influence the election of Mashaba's replacement. (Zille has labelled the book an election strategy by Beaumont and Mashaba.)

, South Africa. Mr Mashaba resignation comes at th
Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane and ex-Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba, who tweeted his support for Zille six months before he resigned from the DA, says like he changed his mind after he last voted for the ANC in 1999 when he learnt what the party was doing, he did the same when he heard about Zille's actions.

He says Zille and the DA have deserted the values of non-racialism in South Africa. 

Why must I not be allowed to change my mind? Is she special to me? She is not special to me.

Asked to comment on whether he expects DA members to leave the party if interim DA leader John Steenhuisen is elected as permanent leader, Mashaba – with promotional material of the book as his virtual background – says "that be John and Helen Zille's issue".

Funzela Ngobeni, former Johannesburg mayoral committee member for finance and deputy DA caucus leader, joined Mashaba's movement in May.

"I am not a DA spokesperson," Mashaba says, later adding that his movement has received "positive responses" from members of all political parties, including the DA, to join him.

OPINION |  Time for government to grow up

Whether Mmusi Maimane would join him, Mashaba says anyone is welcome at The People's Dialogue and he had no formal talks with the former DA leader to join him.

Mashaba swiftly moves the conversation to the dire state of South Africa, which he says is a "patient on life support" and is the reason why he remains in politics.

The Covid-19 pandemic, he says, may lead to around 18 million unemployed South Africans, by current estimates, which, he says, would make the country "totally dysfunctional".

"You don't want to live in a country like that." 

Right now our country, honestly, it's in ICU; we are on life support. How are we going to get out of this? Yes, we'll need all of us to work hard, [but] we must get the best surgeons to get us to survive.

To solve the crisis, a serious Mashaba says the "current teams of doctors", which is the ruling ANC, have to be removed.

He says the ANC "went into exile to loot this country", starting with the arms deal in 1999, when South Africa "was not facing any threat of war" and was the "darling of the world". 

"If the ANC went into exile to liberate our people so that our people can get a better life, they've not demonstrated that in the last 26 years. The public was never on that agenda," Mashaba says, his phone alerting him to a message.

"So it's not up to me, it's up to the ANC to really prove us otherwise, because it's not a question of what people say, it's about what people do." 

READ HERE | Busisiwe Mkhwebane set to nail Herman Mashaba

President Cyril Ramaphosa is "digging the country deeper" into trouble, and the ANC itself is "unsalvagable" as it only operates on patronage, Mashaba adds.

Mashaba, moving his seat closer to the camera, says:

The reason why land reform in this country has failed is because of the ANC corruption.

Mashaba adds Ramaphosa's plans to allow expropriation of land without compensation would lead down the path of Zimbabwe, which he says "used to produce enough food for Africa" but today "cannot feed themselves".

"If we're going to come up with such policies, forget about South Africa. Run somewhere else, for those who can afford to run. But for some of us that are committed to this country, that's why we prepare to put our bodies on the line."

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA ? FEBRUARY 23: City of
Herman Mashaba during the DA manifesto launch in February 2019.

With the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, he says, the country can't even take care of the hospitals and schools it inherited from apartheid. "Before you start talking about the NHI, we have to start talking about the current system. How can you have a beautiful NHI when public hospitals today don't have medication?"  

Mashaba says his yet-to-be-named political party will be founded on the five values of "non-racialism", "free market economy", "social justice", "the rule of law" and the "electoral system", and will contest local government elections in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

He says his movement and future party, at this stage, is "95%" funded by his family, but that they are approaching funders of the DA, ANC and EFF.

READ | The people have spoken – Herman Mashaba to launch new party in August

Mashaba says the party will only consider contesting in municipalities which are "winnable", but has not yet completed any polling to see the extent of their support.

He did not want to comment on how many votes he is expecting, saying it would be premature, only adding that 2.4 million South Africans have engaged with his movement since he started asking for policy, value and even naming suggestions.

But, he is hopeful that the party will take votes from all existing political parties. He says they will predominantly target the 15 million eligible voters who did not vote in previous elections, similar to the stated goal of minister Patricia de Lille's GOOD party. 

OPINION | Our economy is in deep, deep trouble
 

Mashaba says they will enter into coalition with anyone except the ANC to govern municipalities – even the DA – but is hopeful of getting a majority.

Mashaba was accused of allowing former alliance partners, the EFF, of influencing the City of Johannesburg's tender processes with the alleged irregular Afrirent fleet management contract. But he says he requested a forensic investigation into the matter when he was made aware of it.

"I did not know of the existence of such a tender." 

Not a single day anyone from the EFF came to me to discuss tenders, but I can't say so about the DA.

His party, Mashaba says, will ensure that communities themselves elect the candidates who will represent them.

He says his party will also legally challenge the new electoral act the Constitutional Court on Thursday mandated the National Assembly to pass if it does not sufficiently make space for independent candidates.

About concerns that his comments that illegal immigration brought crime into the country led to xenophobic violence in South Africa, Mashaba says if people accuse him of xenophobia, they accuse the law of xenophobia because it requires people to immigrate to the country legally. 

READ HERE | What kind of South Africa will arise from our current crises?

Xenophobic riots in parts of Johannesburg in September 2019 led to the death of seven people, and the looting of a number of foreign-owned shops.

In response, Mashaba says:

In any society where you don't have the rule of law, what do you have? You have chaos, and who's failing us? Essentially home affairs.

Sixty-year-old Mashaba, who founded hair care brand "Black Like Me" in 1985, says he is one of the only examples of starting a successful black-owned business during the height of apartheid when PW Botha was president.

He says soon after he identified a gap in the market, he approached a white Afrikaner Johan Kriel to start the business.

"I took a chance. In those days, actually it was like a kind of treason to approach or to talk to a white person. Remember, we're not even, in those days, allowed to talk". 

Former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.
Former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba says the company, which grew into a successful manufacturing company with products sold in major retailers today, shows that it is possible to start a business regardless of the odds.

"It can be done: a truly South African company in the mid-80s, during the dark days of this country's history. We were not forced by government. In fact, at the time government was against us.

He credits his grandfather, who was a security guard, for pushing him to achieve more. His father died when he was two-years-old when he was living in Ramotse, Northern Gauteng.

Smiling, Mashaba says he was everything to his grandfather.

He was unfair to me. He expected too much from me.

The name Herman, he says, is derived from a nickname his grandfather used for him, and the name of a former soccer player at Kaizer Chiefs. He legalised it in 1994.

Mashaba, who plays the piano (which he taught himself roughly five years ago) and enjoys a glass of whiskey as relaxation, calls himself "an accidental politician", a reference to the title of his biography "accidental mayor". 

"I never thought in my wildest dream that one day I will become a politician," he says. "I was driven into this job sort of realising that people were too scared of ANC and said, 'No, you know what, if we want to be scared of ANC, this country is going to collapse'."  

And honestly, I said, I'm not really prepared to watch ANC destroy this country.

He adds without his wife of more than 30 years, he would not have survived in politics.

"Today, all of us as South Africans have an individual personal responsibility to save this country. And I said 'if not me, who then'?" 

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