JOHANNESBURG – Following the resignation of Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg on Monday morning, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has expressed disappointment with his decision, but congratulated him for his “decisiveness of abandoning a DA that has clearly turned right-wing”.
Mashaba resigned less than 24 hours after former DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was elected chairperson of party’s powerful Federal Council at the weekend.
The mayor had previously threatened to step down if the party was taken over by what he called “right-wing elements” – a reference said to be directed to the Institute of Race Relations, which was accused by some DA leaders of interfering in its internal party politics and which Zille had a short stint at as a senior policy fellow.
“The events of this weekend have left me at a crossroads where I can no longer ignore the internal dynamics of the DA and the continued attempts to undermine my pro-poor agenda in the City of Johannesburg,” Mashaba said at a press conference announcing his resignation. He added: “I am now in a position where I am forced to choose between my party and my country. As a patriot, I will always choose my country first.”
In a statement, EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party would internally consult over the developments in the city and at the right moment, they would make an announcement before Mashaba’s last day in office on 27 November.
The EFF supported the DA’s multiparty coalition in Joburg with smaller parties after the city’s council was hung after the 2016 municipal elections. However, it was reported that some of the recommendations contained in a report by a DA review panel suggested that the party’s decision to form governments in Johannesburg and Tshwane with the EFF’s backing was a “mistake”. The report was discussed at the party’s two-day federal council meeting at the weekend in Johannesburg.
The red berets said Mashaba was the only DA mayor who “never arrogated himself into a leadership style as if the DA had won with an outright majority”.
The EFF said despite the mayor belonging to a political party characterised by “white supremacy and anti-poor policies”, Mashaba turned his back on these policies and practices, and was “always humble, consultative and willing to concede to superior logic”.
“He became more social democratic than even the neo-liberal ANC that his coalition government replaced. He ran the city with the poor and not profit at the centre of policy planning,” Ndlozi said through the statement.
The EFF highlighted some of Mashaba’s successes during his three years in office as the city’s insourcing programme that benefited over 7,000 workers, the electrification of informal settlements, and expanding the operating hours of clinics in poor communities, among others.
“He also uncovered billion’s worth of ANC corruption which the NPA is refusing to prosecute,” Ndlozi said. “We congratulate him for the decisiveness of abandoning a DA that has clearly turned right-wing.”
The EFF also slammed Zille’s election as Federal Council chair, saying her return to mainstream politics showed the DA was turning right-wing.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the election of Hellen Zille as Federal Chairperson is a turn to the right in the DA which should necessitate all social democrats to abandon it once and for all.
“Hellen Zille represents a colour-blind white caucus that seeks to live life as if there is no racism and the brutal history of apartheid in South Africa. This worldview will result in policies that only entrance white privileged and power in the economy and social life,” the statement read.
The EFF added that Mashaba was a far better politician “who walked in the neoliberal door, and now comes out through the pro-poor social-democratic door because of his honest interactions with the EFF. As a result, he achieved in three years what the ANC could not in 24 years.”
“His departure is a sad development for the left-leaning and people-oriented transformation of the local state. A municipality that builds its internal capacity to deliver services instead of relying on tender driven market-oriented solutions,” the party said.