EFF divorce just the boost Maimane needed

(Gallo Images)
(Gallo Images)

Still reeling from the DA's decline in electoral support at national level, the DA is ideally placed to open cooperation talks with the ANC in at least Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay, writes Adriaan Basson.

The biggest political story of last week was not Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's latest finding against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, but the EFF's divorce from the DA in the Johannesburg and Tshwane metropolitan councils.

EFF leader Julius Malema's infantile outburst against the DA for refusing to hand them the Tshwane mayorship has given party leader Mmusi Maimane his biggest vitamin shot since the DA's sobering election results in May. Maimane is now in a unique position to drive the realignment of our politics from a local government level before the 2021 municipal elections.

My two cents on Mkhwebane's latest salvo against Gordhan: from everything I have heard and seen, including by lawyers who have read her report, Gordhan should pretty comfortably win a review application, which he is poised to file this week. Mkhwebane's report contains "glaring legal errors", says an advocate who I implicitly trust.

Let's wait and see. Ignore the EFF-led praise singers of Mkhwebane and their hangers-on in the media and elsewhere. Their party is premature. Don't expect President Cyril Ramaphosa to act on Mkhwebane's report before a court has had a look at it. He will be fully justified delaying implementation of her recommendations based on the judicial criticism against her office in the Estina and Absa cases.

The courts will be busy in the next month.

In the six years that I have been involved in the coverage of the so-called "rogue unit" case, I am yet to see any evidence that implicates Gordhan in criminal wrongdoing. His detractors are purposefully trying to conflate two cases – the setting up of the unit (which Mkhwebane found was unlawful) and the alleged illegal operations of the unit (which is currently on trial in the High Court).

In the absence of evidence, yet to be produced, Gordhan cannot be blamed for each and every misdeed of the unit, if the court so finds.

Back to Malema's early Christmas gift to Maimane. Still reeling from the DA's decline in electoral support at national level, the DA is ideally placed to open cooperation talks with the ANC in at least Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

This could steer the way to further talks around future coalitions, where centrist parties like the ANC and the DA may be required to work together to govern – nationally, provincially and at local level. By centrist I mean parties who fully subscribe to the values and prescribes of the Constitution, including upholding human rights, the rule of law, democratic elections and non-racialism.

In future, moderate voters are likely to want parties who share the same beliefs to work together against the tide of growing radicalism in formal politics.

In plain terms: Maimane and Ramaphosa are much more suitable bed mates than Maimane and Malema.

The effect of the EFF's withdrawal from their messy one-night stand with the DA has already been felt: in Tshwane the ANC voted with the DA to pass the budget, which the ANC said was pro-poor, and in Johannesburg the ANC has provisionally supported Mayor Herman Mashaba's capital budget, while the party is finalising its position on voting with the DA or not.

Nelson Mandela Bay is on a knife's edge with the UDM-led council hanging by a thread due to the EFF's withdrawal of its support for the DA or the ANC. This means the DA and the ANC will be forced to work together to avoid a collapse of council and early elections.

What is in it for the ANC to support DA-led councils?

Ramaphosa is fighting fires from within, led by his rogue secretary-general Ace Magashule, who is undermining him and his vision for the country around every corner. Establishing coalitions or working agreements with a party that shares his belief in constitutionalism could alienate the radicals, rogues and racists in the ANC further and drive them into the arms of the EFF.

Like Thembinkosi Lorch against Egypt, Maimane should take this ball and run with it while the goalbox is open.

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