An ill-conceived idea (Opinion)
Instead of fighting the ousting of Athol Trollip, who was recently removed as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, the DA leadership should rather see his removal as an opportunity to regain the moral high ground following an opportunistic coalition foray.
Last week, Trollip was removed by councillors from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM), with which the DA has an existing coalition agreement.
While it might be easy for some to regard Trollip’s removal as an act of betrayal by political parties that not so long ago made a pact with the DA, the fact of the matter is that the DA-EFF and UDM coalition had from the onset exhibited the hallmarks of a disastrous relationship.
And the truth of the matter is that DA leaders knew all along that the coalition, which the party had entered into with the EFF and other parties to govern hung municipalities created after the 2016 local government elections, was a recipe for failure.
Leaders of the DA, whose core constituency is the country’s white population, were pretty aware of the EFF’s stance on a variety of issues, including the question of race.
When the DA got into bed with the EFF, leaders of the official opposition were aware that EFF leader Julius Malema had been in and out of the country’s courts for, among other things, his adoption of the “kill the boer” slogan.
Those who have been following the EFF would not have been surprised when Malema, as recently as three weeks ago, in reference to Trollip, declared that his party would do everything in its power to remove a “white” mayor.
Leaders of the DA, whose position on land expropriation without compensation is matter of public record, knew of the EFF’s radical economic policies when they entered into the coalition agreement with Malema’s party.
In its quest to govern the metros of Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane at all costs, DA leaders turned a blind eye to the glaring ideological differences between the official opposition and the EFF.
The insatiable appetite for power saw DA leaders going to the extent of roping in former gangster Gayton McKenzie, whose party, the Patriotic Alliance (PA), has a single seat in the Nelson Mandela Bay council.
Despite being acutely aware of the fact that it would be impossible to tone down the EFF’s bellicosity, DA leaders nonetheless created an impression among its voters that a possibility existed for Malema and other EFF leaders to be rehabilitated.
It cannot be true that the DA, which has some of the best strategists at its disposal, did not foresee the crumbling of the coalition arrangement.
The fact of the matter is that the DA leaders dragged the party to an unworkable coalition to create the false impression that opposition parties were ready to govern this country.
As it stands, the only chance for South Africa to be governed by a coalition after next year’s general elections is if the DA and EFF were to join forces.
Without the EFF, the DA, even if it were to bring all the smaller parties into its fold, will not be able to garner sufficient numbers to allow it to govern the country.
While it is true that a coalition government could work best for South Africa, the current political climate, coupled with the country’s divided past, make it impossible for a liberal party such as the DA to find common ground with a radical organisation such as the EFF.
From the start, it was clear that the EFF was never committed to the coalition but simply wanted to use the partnership for its own agenda, which includes bullying the ANC into agreeing to implement the EFF’s radical economic policies.
The EFF strategy worked as the ANC, realising the damage the DA-EFF coalition could cause to the ruling party, agreed to implement the radical economic policies which Malema’s party has been agitating for since its launch five years ago.
Steps the ANC has already taken to appease the EFF and try to get it to turn its back on the coalition, include giving the green light to the proposal to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
The DA leadership, who without doubt would have realised the EFF’s real intentions, should apologise to the official opposition’s backers for dragging the party into an ill-conceived coalition with Malema’s party.
If the DA’s vision of a South Africa governed by a coalition is to be realised, the opposition should channel its resources and energy into growing its support base.
• Clive Ndou is the political editor of