The Democratic Alliance (DA) was on Wednesday pursuing coalition talks with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) after angrily denying a report that it was prepared to trade off its position as the biggest party in Tshwane and other cities for control of Johannesburg.
A DA spokesman said talks were underway “as we speak” and conceded that the process was difficult as the African National Congress (ANC), which emerged as the biggest party in Johannesburg but lost control of Nelson Mandela Bay, was prepared to lay much on the table to woo the EFF.
After contesting municipal elections for the first time since its inception three years ago, the EFF took slightly more than eight percent of last Wednesday’s vote nationally and emerged as the likely kingmakers in key metros.
The DA’s negotiator, James Selfe, on Monday got the go-ahead from the party’s federal executive to open coalition talks with Julius Malema’s party. Selfe acknowledged the vast ideological divides between the DA and the left-wing EFF, but believed that these did not preclude co-operation at local government level.
“Municipalities are about nuts and bolts and bread and butter issues, municipalities do not nationalise mines and banks,” he told the African News Agency (ANA).
Councils and metros have a fortnight from last Saturday’s official announcement of the election results to elect executive mayors and speakers, leaving 10 days for parties to form coalitions in hung councils.
Selfe late on Tuesday denied a report by News24, which he termed “ANC-inspired rumours” that the party was horse-trading control of metros.
“These are the last kicks of a dying horse, desperate to cling onto power using misinformation,” said the chairman of the DA’s federal executive.
“The DA will continue with its negotiations in earnest with the clear objective of putting together governments that give effect to the majority of the electorate’s rejection of the ANC and its management of local government.”
He further denied that suggestions that the DA was planning to purge local government staff in councils it would take over from ANC control.
“There will be no ‘purging’ of staff – every person who works hard, in the best interests of the people, and is qualified to do the job, will be welcome. Indeed, positions are not awarded on the basis of political allegiances in DA-run towns and cities.”
Selfe said that the electorate gave political parties a “clear mandate” to form a government that would give effect to change by “kicking out the ANC which has failed them by putting corruption first and services last”.
He said the DA would continue with negotiations in the spirit of this mandate.
The DA was also expected to meet with the United Democratic Movement on Wednesday afternoon.
In the meanwhile, the ANC’s National Executive Committee was due to start a four-day meeting on Thursday, which was expected to focus on coalition forming. The EFF’s conditions for considering governing at local level with the party reportedly include a demand that President Jacob Zuma step down.