With approximately 18 months left before the municipal elections of 2021, Mashaba (and, possibly, Maimane) have enough time to explore the feasibility of a new, black-led social democratic party that could attract disgruntled voters from all three the established parties while they are at odds with themselves., writes Adriaan Basson
Could former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba be the surprise factor that shakes up our political establishment ahead of the 2021 Local Government Elections?
Mashaba quietly launched his People’s Dialogue platform last week as coalitions between the DA, EFF and ANC at municipal level all but imploded and the country’s major metros were left in disarray.
Rumour is that former DA leader Mmusi Maimane will soon be joining Mashaba in his new “platform for social change”.
South Africa’s three main political parties are struggling to keep it together and the time is ripe for a new entrant to shake things up at the ballot box.
With only a few months of campaigning under its belt, Cope received 1.3 million votes in the 2009 national election, showing the viability of a centrist, democratic party outside of the ANC and the DA.
Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s valiant efforts to undo the destruction of the Zuma years, the ANC remains a party at war with itself and the anti-Ramaphosa campaign will gain traction as he closes opportunities to loot for his fellow comrades.
The election of the ANC’s Geoff Makhubo as mayor of Johannesburg, while there are allegations of corruption hanging over his head, is further proof that Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption ticket is not supported throughout the party.
The ruling party’s nomination of Kholeka Gcaleka to become deputy public protector, despite numerous, valid objections raised against her candidacy, raises the question of how deep Ramaphosa’s support rally stretches in the ANC caucus.
The DA is still reeling from the aftershocks of Maimane’s dramatic resignation and the verdict is out whether John Steenhuisen could appease both the “classic liberal” and “progressive” camps in the DA as acting leader.
The party is a shadow of its 2016 self when the DA managed to take charge of Cape Town (Patricia de Lille), Tshwane (Solly Msimanga), Johannesburg (Mashaba) and Nelson Mandela Bay (Athol Trollip) in what looked like real evidence of a maturing party ready to govern.
Today, none of those mayors are in office and the DA has all but lost control of these metros bar Cape Town.
The EFF is going into a national conference with only one thing for sure: the party is an extension of its leader-for-life Julius Malema’s ego and really only serves to protect Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu from prosecution.
The departure of Dali Mpofu is a massive blow to the EFF’s intellectual capital, that will now be dominated by gun-toting demagogues and alleged criminals.
The timing of Mashaba’s project is interesting. Having just resigned from the DA and as mayor of Jozi, he would have known that his social capital is still high, and people would be interested in his next move.
With approximately 18 months left before the municipal elections of 2021, Mashaba (and, possibly, Maimane) have enough time to explore the feasibility of a new, black-led social democratic party that could attract disgruntled voters from all three the established parties while they are at odds with themselves.
They are cleverly calling it a “platform” at this stage, but I have no doubt that their end goal is to launch a party that could compete on the ballot.
The biggest challenge for Mashaba and Maimane would be to convince the populace why theirs would be any different from a DA Lite. South Africans don’t like losing and stillborn formations like Agang SA are still fresh in our memories.
Mashaba’s first salvo was aimed at the country’s political system that he says is broken. What is his alternative and why would he be a better leader?
Mashaba must expect hard questions about his coalition with the EFF, that many of his critics argue put him in an impossible position where the tail was wagging the dog.
If Maimane joins the party, he will first have to answer questions about his own hand in the demise of the DA while he was party leader. Why will this project be any different?
The two M’s will also have to aggressively recruit fellow dialoguers who are not from the DA’s structures. This could take the movement outside the realm of disgruntled DA exes.
It would be interesting to see if there are parallels that emerge between Mashaba’s project and Italy’s Five Star Movement, that begin in 2009 as an anti-establishment blog by comedian Beppe Grillo and grew into the single largest individual party in the Italian parliament 10 years later.
Grillo and his colleagues argued for an entire rewrite of the political system and found fertile ground in the electorate, particularly under young people.
Keep a close eye on Mashaba’s next move.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.