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While the DA moves to bolster its grip on Gauteng, the ANC is living in denial

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While the DA moves to bolster its grip on Gauteng, the ANC is living in denial

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25th November 2021

By: News24Wire

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While the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is publicly professing to being in control, and ActionSA is leaving the ball in the Democratic Alliance's (DA's) court after forcing them into a coalition government in two of the three metros in Gauteng, the DA is quietly shoring up its fortuitous grip on Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. 

Party insiders told News24 the DA had tentatively scheduled a meeting of its federal executive (FedEx) for next week, where all things related to the forced coalition and how the administrations were to work going forward would be discussed. 

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"The FedEx meeting is tentatively scheduled for 3 December," confirmed a DA member. 

At the meeting, another senior party leader said, "the party is expected to read the riot act" to newly elected Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni mayors, Mpho Phalatse and Tania Campbell, respectively, warning them to desist from giving ear to, taking instruction from or prioritising opposition party demands. 

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The leader added the meeting would be used to discuss strategies to ensure budgets were passed without any hiccups, given the truncated time frame in terms of planning, engaging with political allies and getting feedback from treasury with regards to budgets.

"As you know, the budgets have to be tabled by May, get approval from council, notwithstanding the unstable coalitions, and be finalised by July so all that groundwork has to be done now.

"In 2016, discussions were fortunately done before the council elections but this time because we did not see this coming, we are only going to finalise talks after the election of mayors,"

In the meantime, the party is not being idle.

Senior leaders told News24 its federal council (FedCo) - the governing and policy making body which sits when the party's federal congress is not in session - was ironing out a strategy when it engaged the parties that voted with it, specifically in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

"If you remember, we have a solid agreement that was formally entered upon with five other parties in Tshwane, while there was never any agreement in the two other Gauteng metros.

"So when the party engaged the parties that voted with us, the stance is that we are not going there cap in hand or on our knees begging, we are going there with a list of guidelines that should steer our course going forward.

"The DA will also engage other parties that did not vote with it, including the ANC, IFP and COPE in Johannesburg. Even the Patriotic Alliance will be spoken to and we will try and forge common ground so as to ensure that those who voted with us do not hold us at ransom, knowing that we are no longer entirely dependent on them," said a DA leader. 

Two DA members said FedCo chairperson Helen Zille, her three deputies - Thomas Walters, James Masango and Ashor Sarupen - and party leader John Steenhuisen were among the leaders who were at the forefront in engaging parties who did not vote with the DA.

This to get their buy-in and ensure stable administrations that will allow the party to pass budgets without being held to ransom by their partners. 

During a briefing on Tuesday, Steenhuisen acknowledged the vulnerability of the DA-led minority governments in Gauteng, saying the party was working hard to change this.

"We're going to work hard to make these governments less vulnerable by doing all that we can to build majority coalitions that don't rely on voting support on a case-by-case basis from parties outside of the coalition."

He said as a fragile minority government, they faced various problems, including opposition in council and at provincial level.

"Add to this depleted budgets, core revenue collection, infrastructure decay and huge service delivery backlogs and it must become clear that none of these cities can be turned around overnight."

The DA leader, who spoke to News24, added while the party would ensure it garnered support from those who did not vote for it, the party would try and smooth relations with those who did vote for it. 

"One of the selling points to entice coalition partners is that if they assist us in running the metros for the full term, this would be a clear demonstration to the public that governance work is possible without the ANC and this bodes well for the prospects of opposition parties going into the national elections in 2024," said the leader. 

Similar sentiments were echoed by Steenhuisen, who during his media briefing said the removal of the ANC from all three of the country's metros for the first time since democracy was a significant psychological boost which demonstrated to all South Africans the ANC could be beaten.

While the DA was strategising, the ANC was licking its wounds and seemingly wallowing in denial. 

ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula finally broke his silence after his party lost of four of the five hung metros.

"We did not lose elections, we lost to coalitions because of our failure to garner outright majority to govern. 

"Smaller parties coming together to oust the ANC; that is what is happening in the metros and others define it as punishment. If there is any punishment, it was dealt to us by our voters who did not come out in numbers to vote and we respect their stance. We will need as a party to address their issues," he said. 

Mbalula urged ANC leaders and supporters not to blame one another or parties that refused to go into coalitions with them.

"We accept our fate and we can't blame it on anyone. No political party is expected to make us a favour. So stop blaming [EFF leader Julius] Malema for what he did and his party, it is their political choice," he said. 

ANC national executive committee member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma added the party accepted the outcomes of the first council meetings.

"Sad and painful as it is, this is a call to focus on rebuilding our beloved and glorious movement," said Dlamini-Zuma. 

The ANC Gauteng provincial leadership seemed more optimistic, with provincial secretary-general, Jacob Khawe saying these coalition governments would not be in office for their full term. 

"We saw this in 2016, they will be in office for three years and won't see their term through. For now, we will serve our people in the wards and PR wards where they elected us," said Khawe. 

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