South African Opposition Parties at Odds Over Johannesburg Mayor

  • EFF wants DA to reconsider choice of Herman Mashaba as mayor
  • DA says Mashaba remains its candidate as people voted for him

South Africa’s two main opposition parties, which announced an informal cooperation agreement Wednesday that will enable them to wrest control the country’s biggest cities from the ruling African National Congress, remain at odds over who should be mayor of Johannesburg, the financial hub.

The Democratic Alliance nominated cosmetics entrepreneur Herman Mashaba to lead Johannesburg. It won 38 percent support in the municipality in Aug. 3 local elections and needs backing from the Economic Freedom Fighters, with 11 percent of the vote, and other smaller parties to control the city and its 51 billion rand ($3.8 billion) budget. While Mashaba’s candidacy will not be a deal-breaker for its agreement to work with the DA, he is a “problem” to the EFF, its leader Julius Malema said.

“We are just saying to the DA ‘be reasonable’, we are only asking for one thing,” Malema said in an interview with broadcaster eNCA. If the DA refuses to reconsider Mashaba’s nomination “it’s going to be a bad relationship, it means we will have started on the wrong footing.”

While Mashaba said by phone on Wednesday he will step back if the DA asks him to, leader Mmusi Maimane said the party will not consider the EFF’s demand for a new mayoral candidate.

“We were quite clear, we asked the people of Johannesburg to vote for Herman Mashaba, and Herman Mashaba stands as our candidate,” Maimane told reporters. “You can’t ask South Africans to vote for a candidate and then seek to change that. We communicated that” to the EFF.

The ANC lost outright control of four of South Africa’s main metropolitan areas in the election, including Johannesburg where it polled 45 percent of the vote, as a series of scandals implicating President Jacob Zuma and an economic slump alienated its urban supporters. The EFF said it will vote with the DA in a number of the 27 municipalities left with hung councils after the election to break “powers of patronage” of the ANC.

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