We're talking to everyone now – Julius Malema on EFF's bid for Tshwane mayoral seat

EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele)
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele)

EFF leader Julius Malema says all his party wants is an opportunity to govern.

The red berets, which made it known that they want to lead at the lowest level of government, failed to take control of the City of Johannesburg this week.

The EFF's Musa Novela only garnered 30 votes when councillors voted on Wednesday. The ANC's Geoff Makhubo won with 137 votes.

Malema, speaking to News24 during a one-on-one interview on Thursday, said while his party previously indicated it did not want to govern via "the back door", the current political landscape called for his party to gain experience in running a municipality.

"The development is such that everyone says: 'We've seen them. They are good at this, good at that, but they [are] not good at governance. They don’t have experience.' We need that experience," Malema said.

"That time [governing via the 'back door'] might not have made sense. It makes sense now that people are saying: 'You ought to govern, we want to see you,'" he added.

Just hours after his remarks, the City of Tshwane's Stevens Mokgalapa was ousted as mayor at a special council meeting, which was initially intended to deal with a motion of no confidence in speaker Katlego Mathebe. Mathebe was also removed after the motion succeeded.

Earlier on Thursday, Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Mongameli Bobani was also removed through a no-confidence motion.

Malema said the EFF was intent on nominating a mayoral candidate to replace Mokgalapa and had not ruled out discussions with any party despite failing to convince the DA and the ANC to accept its proposal of governing one of Gauteng's metros during negotiations before the vote in Johannesburg.

"The DA is likely to be nowhere in all the municipalities they controlled because of white arrogance," was Malema's reading of the DA's strength.

The DA lost control of the City of Johannesburg, with Makhubo winning the mayoral vote. The second-largest party in Johannesburg managed to hang onto the speaker position, when a motion of no confidence in Vasco Da Gama failed.

"After dropping the floral suit, we are still going to talk to the DA, to say guys we are here," Malema said, referring to Mokgalapa.

Malema said maybe this time around interim DA leader John Steenhuisen would have "come back to his senses".

The EFF leader relayed a story of how negotiations for the City of Johannesburg failed with the DA.

He told News24 he made a call to federal council chairperson Helen Zille, who was with Steenhuisen, and head of governance James Selfe.

"John said: 'No I can't give you speaker anywhere; we can't give you any executive positions. You guys can be chairs of committees because a speaker can be used to destabilise the executive'," said Malema.

"Then I said: 'No, we can't be reduced to being subordinates of whiteness, if that is the case then let's leave it'," he said.

Can't compete with corrupt politics

Malema said while the ANC and EFF were close to making a deal ahead of Wednesday's vote in Johannesburg, an agreement couldn't be finalised because the two parties disagreed on Makhubo.

The deal would have seen an ANC mayor in Johannesburg, with the red berets in charge of the council, and an EFF mayor in Tshwane, with the ANC occupying key positions in the council.

Makhubo has been tainted by reported ties between his company and Gupta-linked advisory firm Regiments Capital, which has been implicated in state capture corruption claims.

"You can't compete with politics of letsogo le kubong (secret deals); that's how Geoff [Makhubo] starts," said Malema.

He denied that the red berets were outmanoeuvred in the Joburg council, saying it was the opportunism of DA councillors who voted with the ANC that sealed the deal.

julius malema, malema, eff

(Photo by Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele)

"His first step into office is to bribe the DA councillors to vote with them; we can't compete in that space, we cannot compete in the politics of exchanging monies," said Malema.

The EFF chief said it would have been difficult for his party to explain why it backed Makhubo when its own candidate, Novela, was younger, more energetic, committed and understood the issues facing the Joburg metro.

3 key things to fix Tshwane

While there is no telling if Malema will be able to çlinch a deal to take control of the embattled City of Tshwane, it seems he is already formulating plans on how to get the municipality working optimally again.

"Give us the opportunity to govern so that in 2021 we can say to our people in 15 months, these are the things we were able to do," he said.

The commander-in-chief of the red berets said a "powerful administrator" was necessary to turn the City around - one who won't be bullied by those who, he claimed, had "institutionalised" corruption in the City.

He believes a clean-up campaign and communicating with workers on matters such as insourcing and salaries will also go a long way to improving operational efficiency in the metro.

"You've got to have the buy of the workers, the buy in of administration, clean the City 'cause its rotten," said the EFF leader.

He said while it was impossible to change or pass a new budget, there was a need to look at existing projects and fix persistent problems such as the dire state of water delivery in Hammanskraal.

"Why can't we have someone who says: 'I am going to open an office here and get this thing right,'" Malema questioned.

He said tests had been done proving the water was not safe for human consumption but questioned why there seemed to be no willingness to find a solution.

"Hammanskraal, why is it so difficult to have one company that will work 24 hours to get that water working properly all kinds of tests have been conducted that say the water is not safe and it didn't start yesterday," he said.

While he called this the most challenging issue in Tshwane, he also said there was a need to stabilise the unreliable electricity which affected residents across parts of the capital city.

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