Jozi jetsam floating in Durbs




Durban is a tad on the bleak side, grim and grey from another overnight downpour. It looks set to clear in time for the weekend, for a change, so I’m pretty stoked at the prospect of getting into the water once the work is done for the week. It’s been a while. The sea has been filthy from all the rubbish washed into it. It would be great to get some beach time in before the horde from the hinterland arrives.

The frontrunners are here already. The first of them landed on Friday, all selfie sticks and matching his and hers shorts and T-shirts; a sunburned neck sticking out of an uShaka Marine World rash vest topped by cheesy Welcome to Durban straw hats advance guard for the amapiano-listening army of occupation that we will have to live with for the next month and a bit.

Jozi is coming, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

At least the Centre of the Universe has a mayor again, even if Geoff Makhubo, the ANC Johannesburg regional chairperson who won the mayoral race, is accused of being a bit of a dodgy punter.

It’s been tough covering the battle over who got to replace Herman Mashaba long distance. But it does beat spending the last few weeks of another long year in Jozi, which has been my fate over the past couple of years.

Jo’burg is a bit of a hole, so if Geoff’s election means I don’t have to go there, he’s welcome to it.

Perhaps that’s why some of the Democratic Alliance’s councillors voted for Geoff and not the party’s mayoral candidate, Funzela Ngobeni. Perhaps the DA councillors had simply had enough of Jozi for one year and decided to avoid a hung council or a rerun and the risk of wasting the timeshare at the coast and made their X next to Geoff’s head, just to get out of Dodge and avoid spending another weekend in the Big Smoke.


Perhaps the DA councillors who bucked the party line weren’t all that pleased with the party’s jump to the white with the return of former Western Cape premier Helen Zille as DA federal chairperson and expressed that sense of displeasure with their votes. Perhaps the party isn’t as united as the Interim One, as John Steenhuisen is known these days, says, and the voting mutiny is something of a fightback by supporters of Mashaba and Mmusi Maimane.


Unless of course, this was all part of Zille’s masterplan, aimed at getting rid of Johannesburg and Tshwane and retreating to the laager of the Western Cape to build a wall.

Mike Moriarty, the DA’s Gauteng leader, reckons the party’s councillors who voted out of tune were bought off by the ANC. Moriarty reckons they were “individuals” who were got to with the offer of jobs or a backhander and not an anti-Zille lobby in the party.

Either way, Zille and the Interim One can’t be pleased with the outcome of Wednesday’s vote. Which probably explains their silence.

Jozi is a hole, but it’s politically and economically important. Taking it from the ANC in 2016, even though it was courtesy of a coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters, was a major coup. So was taking control of Tshwane.

The local government wins gave the DA leverage in the province that paid off with a reduced ANC majority in Gauteng in May’s national and provincial election. That leverage has just goneout the window. It would have made sense for the DA to go into the coming local government elections running the city.

The DA haslost the ability to dispense a whole lot of patronage, and to keep its councillors in line, ahead of the 2021 local government elections. Not much of an endorsement of the party’s newly elected leadership, whose elevation to office has been punted as a means of regaining lost ground.

That went well, didn’t it?

Mashaba, Maimane and Athol Trollip must be having a bit of a laugh right now.

Think about it. Maimane and Trollip were nailed over the loss of voters to the Freedom Front Plus in May, something which was inevitable whenthe party tried to position itself as a non-racial alternative to the ANC.

Their replacements (Zille and Steenhuisen)were meant to “turn things around”. Instead, they have just presided over what has to be one of the biggest losses in the DA’s history — giving the ANC control over a R59-billion budget.

Not a bad start.

It will be interesting to see whether the same standards are applied to Zille and Steenhuisen as were applied to Maimane, whether a review panel will be appointed to ensure that they step down, or whether whiteness will, once again, prevail.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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