ANC defies Zuma and woos Malema

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As triumphant DA rejects coalition talks with ANC, Gauteng leaders plan to meet Malema in last-ditch bid to retain Joburg and Tshwane

EFF leader Julius Malema addressing the media at the IEC results centre.
EFF leader Julius Malema addressing the media at the IEC results centre.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali / Sunday Times

Top ANC leaders have defied Jacob Zuma and set out to woo arch-enemy Julius Malema into a coalition deal that will keep the party in power in South Africa's top metros.

The Gauteng ANC has initiated coalition talks with Malema's EFF in a last bid to save Johannesburg and Tshwane from falling into the hands of the DA.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told the Sunday Times in an interview on Friday he had instructed provincial secretaries to "do everything they can" to retain all hung municipalities. He added that the outcome of coalition negotiations would shock many.

But the ruling party's attempts to woo the EFF may be scuppered if the DA and the EFF reach a deal at a meeting later today or tomorrow.

The DA yesterday invited Malema to a formal discussion and the EFF leader accepted.

Coalition talks between the EFF and the ANC broke down in Port Elizabeth after Malema's party demanded the removal of Zuma as president in return for support in Nelson Mandela Bay metro.

Zuma's backers told the Sunday Times yesterday that the president had expressed his disapproval of holding talks with the EFF.

But Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile confirmed that Malema had agreed to a meeting "this weekend" with the ANC.

All eyes will be on Malema to see whether he joins up with the ANC or the DA, after this week's local government elections left him as the ultimate kingmaker in South Africa's most important cities.

"We are going to meet the leader of the EFF ... there is no problem at all, he has agreed to meet," Mashatile said yesterday.

But a provincial leader said Zuma had told him not to enter into any negotiations with Malema's party.

"They [the EFF] have said it over and over again that they won't work with us ... so the president feels we can't be their lapdog. It's like somebody trying to stay in a forced marriage. It won't work," he said.

Gauteng provincial executive leaders confirmed that Zuma's backers had raised concerns about inviting Malema's party to form a coalition government.

But party spokesman Zizi Kodwa said talk of Zuma's opposition to the talks was "malicious gossip".

The "ANC can negotiate with any party and does not need permission from the president, he said. "It's the ANC that takes the decision."

Kodwa said negotiations between the ANC and the EFF were also taking place at a national level.

"The ANC in different provinces started negotiating as far back as Wednesday," he said.

Zuma's spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, referred questions about party matters to the ANC.

The Mashatile-led talks have the blessing of Mantashe.

"Many of you are going to fall off your chairs when you discover coalitions that will be concluded in this process," said Mantashe.

These people do not seem to understand that politics has changed. We want to rid the country of Jacob Zuma because he is messing up the country. Surely, even the DA wants that

He said that the power to negotiate coalitions had been devolved to provincial ANC structures with the condition that the national leadership should be routinely informed of the outcome of talks.

"There are going to be all sorts of coalitions. All of you will be shocked," Mantashe said.

Mashatile conceded that the EFF holds all the power in coalition negotiations, as the other smaller parties are of no significance.

"If you go to Tshwane, obviously the EFF is key. The same thing in Johannesburg," he said.

Malema's agreeing to meet with Mashatile and other ANC provincial leaders has been interpreted as a positive first step.

But EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi denied there were discussions planned with Mashatile or Mantashe. "We will not negotiate behind South Africa's back.

"People will know who we negotiate with," he said.

The Sunday Times has confirmed that the DA has formally requested to meet the EFF for coalition talks.

The DA seems equally set on forming coalitions with opposition parties that would exclude the ANC. It has reached an agreement with smaller parties that would allow it to run Nelson Mandela Bay without the ANC or the EFF.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane told the Sunday Times he was willing to work with Malema's party in Johannesburg and Tshwane, despite having being called a stooge by the leader of the EFF.

"In the hurly-burly of politics people say a lot of things," he said.

"It's not personal. I am not negotiating on behalf of Mmusi Maimane. Anybody we discuss things with must be able to guarantee us that we'll deliver services to the people, we'll create an economy that grows and creates jobs and deals with corruption.

"Remember, we are willing to walk away. We're not power-hungry to say that we'll go into government at all costs.

"It can only be about making sure that we deliver on the mandate of the people.

"So we'll never compromise on that and I think if people disagree with us, and can't find an agreement about how we want to govern, we won't do it," he said.

The Sunday Times understands that there were some groupings in the DA that were not fully supportive of the idea of forming a coalition government with the EFF.

But Maimane has downplayed this, saying it was only natural for there to be opposing views in any political party.

"We've worked with coalitions before; we did it in Cape Town. Any leader's job is to bring people together, even when they disagree with you.

"Even in the execution of the campaign there were people who disagreed with me about certain things. But at the end of the day people learn to trust and follow your leadership," said Maimane.

Those entering into coalition arrangements in councils have until 6pm on August 20 to make up their minds , at which point the municipal manager of every municipality is bound by law to call a council meeting to elect the mayor, deputy mayor and speaker of the council.

Despite denials by several parties, exploratory talks and initial horse-trading started well before the final results of the poll were announced.

Journalists kept an eagle eye on which politicians were speaking to each other on the floor of the Independent Electoral Commission's results centre in Pretoria, with every chat seen as a possible indication - whether it was the ANC's Kodwa speaking at length to his EFF counterpart, Ndlozi, or Mantashe having an animated discussion with DA Ekurhuleni mayoral candidate Ghaleb Cachalia, for instance.

As the two-week-long courting game begins, millions of South Africans who queued for hours in extreme weather look on with unprecedented interest to see who will determine whether they have functioning municipal services for the next five years.

And the EFF is making its potential partners sweat it out.

For the EFF, there are many factors to consider - most of all the danger inherent to junior coalition partners the world over, namely that the smaller party often gets crushed by the larger one.

The ANC has tried to exploit personal friendships with EFF leaders, as well as offering positions and painting the DA as "a group of white boys" in order to lure the EFF to its side.

EFF sources said these overtures, including by struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, had so far failed.

"These people do not seem to understand that politics has changed. We want to rid the country of Jacob Zuma because he is messing up the country. Surely, even the DA wants that. And we have big problems with Cyril Ramaphosa. So who in the ANC will agree to that?" an EFF source said.

"Also the other issue we want solved is the land issue. We want the constitution to be changed for expropriation without compensation. As national government, the ANC can do that. But will they?" the source asked.

Apart from the fear of being swallowed up by the ANC in a coalition, the other aspect counting against the ANC is the bad blood caused, and the real blood spilt, between the ANC and the EFF in parliament and in the streets.

In the DA's overtures to the EFF, federal executive chairman James Selfe is acting as point man and EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee is fielding approaches to the EFF.

DA public representatives were warned in writing by the party's top leadership yesterday that anyone who tried to engage in coalition negotiations would be severely dealt with.

Such talks would be handled by the national leadership.

Mitigating against the DA are a perception of its arrogance and the fact that its policies are so different on, for instance, the use of municipal land.

In the DA's favour are the distaste it shares with the EFF for ANC excesses, the fact that municipal governance is about service delivery and a history of collaboration in parliament.

A large internal poll conducted by the EFF yesterday showed that 62% of respondents would rather it work with the DA than the ANC. - Additional reporting by Thanduxolo Jika,,

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