Political parties have been locked in closed-door negotiations on how to form coalition administrations in municipalities where there were no outright winners after last week’s local government elections.
The Protea Hotel in Midrand has served as the meeting place for several coalition discussions.
ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe held a private meeting described as “talks about talks” with EFF leader Julius Malema at the hotel last Sunday.
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Floyd Shivambu, Malema’s deputy, confirmed that the party’s decision on coalitions would be taken by its central command team at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
The EFF is the kingmaker in these negotiations as it holds the balance of power in most hung councils, particularly in major metros such as Johannesburg and Tshwane.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane had approached several opposition parties including Bantu Holomisa’s UDM, COPE, the IFP and the African Independent Congress.
Holomisa, the go-to person on negotiations between the ANC and the smaller parties, said they told Maimane to await the conclusion of the NEC’ s meeting before entering into formal talks.
“The DA came. We told them that some of us are talking to the ANC and we can’t commit ourselves yet until we hear from their NEC meeting. The DA must understand that this is not a simple process,” said Holomisa.
AIC leader Mandla Galo said he, too, was waiting to hear from the ANC first before he could entertain the DA.
Galo said his party wanted feedback from the ANC about the AIC’s demands, especially that of moving Matatiele, the small opposition party’s stronghold, back to KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape.
“The ANC has asked for a meeting with us – and we will only engage with the DA after we have heard what the ANC has to offer regarding our demands,” said Galo.
The delays have forced the DA to abandon its planned first council meeting in Nelson Mandela Bay after it became clear the party was struggling to secure enough support to push through the election of Athol Trollip as mayor.
The DA won the most votes in Nelson Mandela Bay but does not have enough seats to govern on its own. The small parties fear the DA wil use the coalition arrangement to swallow them as it did with Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats.
But the ACDP and the FF PLUS have committed to working with other parties to squeeze the ANC out of power.
The ANC is expected to announce its formal plans tomorrow.
The Sunday Times can report that last Sunday, Mantashe and other members of the ANC’s top six met President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, where the secretary-general told the party head that they had started talks with the EFF and Zuma gave them his blessing despite earlier reservations.
The “premier league”, an ANC faction, is said to be strongly opposed to a coalition with the EFF.
Mantashe is leading the ANC’s negotiations team, with deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and Deputy Co-operative Governance Minister Andries Nel.
Mashatile also met Malema separately at a follow-up meeting on Tuesday when the EFF leader set eight conditions on which the two parties could form coalitions.
Malema is demanding the ANC remove Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa before the EFF can swing it back into power in Tshwane and Johannesburg.
Spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the EFF would be guided by two basic principles in arriving at a decision.
“Everything agreed to would have to better the lives of the black poor and the EFF would not give up its identity,” said Ndlozi.
Ndlozi has indicated that, depending on the benefits to the black poor, the EFF would prefer to work with the opposition rather than the ANC.
DA sources confirmed that negotiations between the two parties were fruitful. A key sticking point is the EFF seemingly loath to govern with the DA.