Economic Freedom Fighters president Julius Malema says his party cannot guarantee that it will support Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba should he face a motion of no confidence in the city council next week.
The ANC in Johannesburg has launched a high court application to force the Democratic Alliance to place motions of no confidence against Mashaba and metro speaker Vasco da Gama on the council agenda for next week.
A member of the ANC caucus in the metro said the DA was dragging its feet because it wanted to buy time to resolve tensions with the EFF before a vote could be held.
Relations between the EFF and the DA have reached their lowest point since the EFF agreed to help to vote the DA into power in a number of municipalities in which the ANC failed to get an outright majority in last year’s local government elections.
The heightened tensions follow the DA’s decision last month to remove the United Democratic Movement’s Mongameli Bobani as deputy mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro with a motion of no confidence.
In retaliation, the EFF decided to boycott all council meetings in municipalities where the DA is in power through a coalition.
Malema told the Mail & Guardian this week that, despite helping to elevate the DA to power in a number of councils, “our vote for the DA is not guaranteed; it gets reviewed from time to time, depending on the matter on the table. Like the Mashaba issue, it’s not automatic that we will vote for the DA.
“We have to look at the reasons of the ANC and look at the reasons of the DA, and then our guys who are directly involved have to advise on what is the right thing to do.”
Da Gama, whom the ANC wants removed, said he hoped sanity would prevail in the EFF’s decision-making and criticised the ANC’s attempt to capitalise on the current state of the DA’s relationship with the red berets.
“It’s quite clear that the ANC is busy using what they think is a dispute between the DA and the EFF to try get rid of myself and the mayor,” he said.
“It’s actually lame, in the sense that they are putting forward a motion with no evidence and they go to court without placing the urgency of it. If you look at the papers, they don’t state why it’s urgent.”
Da Gama denied allegations that the DA was trying to buy time and said the motions had not been placed on next week’s agenda because the council’s programming committee did not view them as urgent.
He also dismissed the ANC’s claims that the DA had plunged the city into a financial crisis, which was the motivation behind the ANC’s bid to remove him and Mashaba.
The ANC also wants the court to declare that Da Gama has the discretion to decide whether voting should be done by secret ballot. The ANC’s Jolidee Matongo said the party was confident the motions would be successful should a secret ballot be granted, but said it would accept whatever decision the court made.
“Many DA councillors don’t want the speaker and mayor any more. They have approached us to say if [we] have a secret ballot, they will support the motion,” he said.
“If the court says we must vote by a show of hands, we don’t have a problem with that — we will vote by a show of hands. But when we voted for them we used a secret ballot, so when we want to remove them it must also be by secret ballot.”
Should the EFF decide to boycott the meeting, the DA’s chances of defeating the motion will be slim. Its 104 seats and the nine from its smaller coalition partners will not be enough. But, with 121 seats, the ANC also does not have an outright majority in the council.
This means that, without the EFF, a hung council is likely. If this happens, the municipality would either need to be placed under administration or hold a re-election.
However, even if the EFF is there, its presence may not be enough to defeat a motion of no confidence if a secret ballot is allowed.
In June, former Mogale City mayor Michael Holenstein was removed by a vote of no confidence brought by the ANC, amid suspicions that the vote of one DA or EFF councillor had been bought.
Da Gama said the DA was not concerned that the scenario in Mogale City would play out in Johannesburg.
“I think it’s different in the Jo’burg environment … The damage done by the ANC in the past 15 years has been huge,” he said.
“We are in constant communication with our coalition partners and I just hope that sanity prevails and everybody sees what’s going on and ensures that residents of Johannesburg enjoy what they voted for”. — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo