The ANC is moving to take advantage of the fallout in the Democratic Alliance and seize control of the Johannesburg metro.
The party hopes to woo the Inkatha Freedom Party away from its co-operation agreement with the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters, ahead of the vote to replace mayor Herman Mashaba, who resigned from the DA on Monday and will leave office on November 27.
The governing party also aims to break the coalition between the DA, EFF and IFP in several rural KwaZulu-Natal municipalities that it lost to the coalition in 2016. To do that, it has offered the IFP mayorships in these towns in return for their dumping the DA.
Yesterday, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte met the leadership of the party’s Gauteng region and its greater Johannesburg region to take stock of the gaps created by Mashaba’s resignation in a bid to try to take back control of the city.
This followed provincial and caucus level talks between the ANC and IFP in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in recent weeks, according to sources in both parties.
In 2016, the DA took 121 seats in Johannesburg, ahead of the ANC’s 104, with the EFF taking a further 30 seats. The IFP took five seats, the African Independent Congress took four, and the African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus, Al Jama-ah, Congress of the People and the Patriotic Alliance each taking one seat.
In July, the ANC took one ward (109) off the DA in one of four by-elections. The DA retained the other three, but lost votes to the FF+ in each ward. The loss of the ward sparked speculation that the IFP, angered by the firing of Johannesburg mayoral council member Mzobanzi Ntuli by Mashaba in May, might ally itself with the ANC in the city and oust Mashaba.
The ANC has since given the chair of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts to the IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa as well as the premier’s oversight committee chair in the Gauteng legislature to its provincial chairperson, Bonginkosi Dhlamini.
IFP Gauteng provincial secretary Alco Ngobese confirmed that talks were taking place with the ANC and the EFF, as well as the DA, over possible realignments. “We signed a co-operation agreement [with the DA] in 2016. We are still committed to that but we are keeping our options open.”
IFP national treasurer Narend Singh, who is head of the party’s negotiating team, said any agreement at council level would have to be ratified nationally. “The ink hasn’t even dried yet with what’s happening in the DA. We are in coalitions with the DA and the EFF in municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. We will wait and see how things turn out.”
He added: “We will hear from them if they want to continue and take it from there.”
Singh confirmed that there had been discussions between the IFP and ANC in Gauteng and in KwaZulu-Natal, but that any agreements struck by local level negotiators would need to be sanctioned by the party’s leadership.
ANC Johannesburg caucus chief whip Solly Mogase said they were still waiting for a letter from the speaker confirming Mashaba’s resignation.
Mogase said the caucus would talk to “all parties represented in council” on Thursday and Friday to look at “possibilities for negotiation over the election of the mayor”.
An ANC team was also talking to other parties at provincial level.
Duarte is overseeing the process.
Mogase said that at caucus level they were first finding out where the other parties stood before taking a position on the mayoral post. This included the EFF, which had previously stated that it would not be talking to the ANC about a coalition in Johannesburg. “We don’t know where they stand now. We are waiting to see. This is a process. It’s not something that can happen in a day,” Mogase said.
EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi had not responded to queries from the Mail & Guardian at the time of writing.