Return of the white men

Walking into the Western Cape provincial legislature on Wednesday felt like Rip van Winkle waking up after a long snooze and finding things have been turned on their heads.

It was as if a sudden floor crossing had taken place. Two weeks after the Western Cape voted overwhelmingly for the DA it was sitting on the ruling side of things.
And what was truly amazing was the return of the white men.

Helen Zille, who took her oath of office amid loud cheers, came into the legislature with 15 white men, four coloureds and two Africans. This after she won the province with the overwhelming support of the coloured community, which makes up 52% of the eligible voters.

The results also highlighted the fact that, despite its best efforts, the DA has yet to break into the African electorate. It polled less than 3% of the African vote—confirming the major racial fractures in the province. And only four of the DA’s 22 legislature members are women, compared with the 50% of the ANC’s representatives.

During the rowdy inauguration, chaired by a smiling Judge Dennis Davis, who was clearly enjoying proceedings, the ANC’s Patrick McKenzie, former provincial safety and security minister, asked Zille where the Mitchells Plain members were.

ANC representatives laughed loudly when ANC provincial chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha asked: ‘Ag nee man, Zille, why you bring all these white men into the legislature?”

Speaking in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa, Zille delivered a speech that was, at times, moving. She will be the province’s first white woman to move into Leeuwenhof—the premier’s official residence—and said that the position presents her with her ‘life’s greatest public challenge and responsibility”.

Teenage pregnancy and drug abuse are ‘the two most serious inhibitors of opportunity and rights in our province”, she said, ‘and, in fact, the two often go hand in hand. Police estimate that up to 80% of crime in this province is linked to substance abuse—as are the majority of fatal accidents.”

Corruption had become a cancer in our society, she added, and promised an open and accountable government.

She is scheduled to announce her ministers on Friday, and Wednesday’s voting made it clear that she will not form coalitions with the Congress of the People, the ID or the ACDP, who all won seats in the legislature.

Cope’s three members—Allan Boesak, Mbulelo Ncedane and Tozama Bevu—and the ACDP’s Pauline Cupido are probably the four who spoiled their votes in a secret ballot for the premier, while the ID’s two members no doubt threw their votes behind Zille.

This sets the scene for a future in which the DA will go it alone and the ID will get one minister, Izak ‘Sakkie” Jenner, who is tipped for the sports and recreation portfolios.

The Mail & Guardian understands that Zille did approach Cope to form a coalition but on condition that neither Boesak nor Ncedane would be offered ministerial positions; Bevu, though, would be acceptable. Cope refused the deal.

Her likely cabinet

  • Theuns Botha—possibly agriculture or local government

  • Ivan Meyer—education

  • Robin Carlisle—transport

  • Anton Bredell—local government and planning

  • Bonginkosi Madikizela—housing (and the only African minister)

  • Lennit Max—not clear whether Zille will risk the highly controversial police commissioner for the community safety portfolio, but it is the obvious place for him

  • Alan Winde—finance, but also a strong contender for environmental affairs

  • Gerrit van Rensburg—agriculture (he was the former New National Party’s minister in this portfolio)

  • Sakkie Jenner—the ID’s sole likely minister, probably sports and recreation

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