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Two negotiators, ten days, six meetings, four deals — inside the talks that changed South Africa by Jan-Jan Joubert (Rand Daily Mail), 22 August 2016

23 August 2016

The EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and the DA's James Selfe give fascinating insight into what happened in six crucial meetings

Six meetings over ten days at different locations in Gauteng following the sensational local government election results of 3 August have changed the face and dynamic of South African politics, maybe forever.

Interviewed separately, EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and DA federal executive chairman James Selfe have offered a fascinating look inside the talks which have left the ANC out of power in several of the country's biggest cities and towns, with Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay as the most glittering jewels to be added to Cape Town in the opposition crown.

The EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi:

Ndlozi said the EFF were involved in six formal meetings - three with the ANC and three with the DA. 

"Although there were informal conversations between individuals before the local government elections, things only really started happening after the EFF commander in chief, Julius Malema, held his press conference at which he said no-one had contacted the EFF yet, and until it was clear that there would be so many councils where no single party would hold a majority.

"Then, suddenly, the calls started coming in from everybody, asking: Can we see you?

"First came the ANC: Paul Mashatile, Hope Papo and David Makhura. They asked for formal talks. We as the EFF said we will listen to you, but it must be your national leadership. A meeting was agreed upon for Sunday in Johannesburg, not Midrand, as some have claimed.

"Then the DA wrote a letter from James Selfe, requesting a meeting. We agreed to a meeting on Sunday, 7 August, also in Johannesburg.

"On the Sunday, the ANC team arrived, consisting of a core team of Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte, Zweli Mkhize, Jeff Radebe, Andries Nel and Hope Papo. In later meetings, Ayanda Dlodlo joined them.

"Because they had come to us, we asked them to put their case forward. They said that they would like to go into coalition with us, and gave us the option of either sharing power with them in municipalities, or to trade control of some municipalities in exchange for control of other municipalities.

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"As the EFF, we told them that we took exception to their offer, because it was based on careerism. We told them that any coalition would have to be based on shared ideology and policy, or else it would collapse anyway.

  • "We then put our demands, including
  • the nationalisation of the mines;
  • the nationalisation of banks, expropriation of land without compensation;
  • dropping Die Stem from the national anthem;
  • no nuclear deal with the Russians;
  • a commission of enquiry into state capture by the Gupta family;
  • free education and
  • the removal of Jacob Zuma as president.

"The ANC delegation said they had to discuss matters with their organisation; that they had to consult. Their national working committee (NWC) was meeting the next day - Monday, 8 August - and they would revert back to us.

"On Monday, 8 August, the EFF central command team (CCT) met, and the leadership obtained a mandate to continue with formal negotiations.

"On Tuesday, 9 August, we met the ANC again. This was our second meeting. The ANC delegation said it was in a difficult position. It was ready to move on all the policy questions we had raised, but that the removal of Zuma was a no-no. They said it would be like asking for a meeting with the EFF, but excluding the commander in chief (Malema).

"As the EFF, we said this was not good enough. The ANC had to focus on issues of substance. At issue was the kleptocracy the country had become, and the findings of the Constitutional Court (that the president had essentially broken his oath of office); not some personality issue with Jacob Zuma. We asked them: What do you say to that?

"The ANC said the president could issue a proclamation to change the national anthem, but only after a process of public consultation. As the EFF, we were not happy with that.

"On the nationalisation of mines. the ANC proposed a state mining company, and on the nationalisation of banks, the ANC proposed a state bank.  On the matter of expropriation, the ANC said we could negotiate, and on nuclear the ANC said there was no deal with the Russians.

"Regarding the Guptas, the ANC was prepared to institute a commission of enquiry into state capture, but not into the Guptas as such. We as the EFF said that was not good enough; state capture started with Jan van Riebeeck and included Madiba staying in (mining mogul) Clive Mennell's house. It was too broad - it had to focus on the Guptas.

"We as the EFF told the ANC their proposals were not good enough. We would need to see a fundamental shift by them if they wanted to work with us.

"The ANC said they would go back to their organisation to consult.

"After the meeting of the ANC NEC last weekend, the ANC delegation came back to us with even weaker proposals tan before.

"On free education, they were wishy-washy, making it subject to the findings on the presidential higher education task team. They were now zigzagging on expropriation without education, saying they were for expropriation with compensation as detailed in the new Expropriation Bill, which complied with section 25 of the Constitution (the property clause).

"We as the EFF again offered them our votes in Parliament to obtain a two thirds majority and change section 25 of the Constitution, but that was not accepted.

"The ANC reiterated that the removal of President Zuma was a non-starter. That meant we as the EFF never even had the chance during these negotiations to state our case regarding the removal of Cyril Ramaphosa, Baleka Mbete, Nathi Mthethwa and Susan Shabangu. That discussion never even came up, because of the Zuma proposal.

"The talks with the ANC thus ended in failure, the ANC having shown a complete lack of creativity, and no drive to act on the Marikana massacre.

"With the DA, we as the EFF also had three meetings. These were shorter than those with the ANC. From the first meeting, on Sunday 7 August, it was clear that the DA could not think outside the box. They were mostly interested in coalitions. For us as the EFF, coalitions were always secondary, because coalitions had to rest on policy conditions. To be in coalition with the EFF, you have to rule and govern according to EFF policy.

"The DA kept telling us that our demands were on matters of national policy, and they wanted to limit the discussions to municipal matters, because these were municipal elections and the DA is not in a position to implement policy on national issues anyway because they are in opposition.

"We as the EFF told them that we understood their position, but that we wanted their support and votes in parliament for our national policies, especially as these municipal elections were mostly decided on national issues.

"Take corruption, for instance. Parks Tau is not a corrupt person, yet the corruption issue was central in the Johannesburg contest. At the third meeting with the DA, no-one talked much. We had taken note of their letter in which they set out how they would govern municipalities - what they would practically do.

"We agreed that we would support their candidates because it was better than the ANC, but that we did not agree with their policies and therefore could not go in coalition with them.

"What was disappointing about the negotiations with both the ANC and the DA was that both those parties thought the EFF was up to some trick. Both those parties wanted, in the first place, to talk about positions of power in councils.

"We as the EFF kept telling them: You are speaking to the wrong people. We take exception to your approach. We are not here to talk about careerism. We are here to have a revolution.

"In the end, we chose to support the DA candidates in an effort to create an opposition voting block. In this regard, our experience of the success of opposition voting blocks in parliament was central. Central to our thinking was that we have to create a vibrant, creative political environment where change is possible.

"As we have always maintained, this is not possible in the political one party dominant environment the ANC has created. In one party dominant systems, dispersing of patronage becomes paramount. That meant we could never agree to co-operate with the ANC as it is. This, we have always maintained, consistently.

"The ANC's problem is that it is rotten to its core, and it refuses to deal with it. Nowhere is this clearer than in its undermining of the rule of law. The rule of law is central in any functioning state.

"The tragedy of the ANC is not that it contains corrupt individuals. All organisations have that. The tragedy of the ANC is that  it fails to act against those individuals. When the people's money is stolen, nothing happens.

"Regarding the DA, one of the great disappointments was Mmusi Maimane's inability to frame thoughts and solutions in a political context. It was left to James Selfe and Patricia de Lille to do that - to tell us what their policies meant. Selfe and De Lille were the only ones in the DA delegation with that ability.

"Maimane would talk for a long time, but say nothing. Afterwards, we as the EFF would look at each other not knowing what this guy actually meant. We were unsure of his position on most issues. Maimane also failed to understand that these were negotiations: give and take. The issue of Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg is an example.  Maimane kept asking: What do you want from us? He did not seem to understand that we were interested in policy, not positions or personalities," said Ndlozi.

Regarding the EFF's refusal to take up the mayoralty of Rustenburg and rule that big hung council where they beat the DA into third place,  Ndlozi said their decision was based on the premise that you could not have revolution through coalition.

"For a revolution, you need an unequivocal popular mandate. The EFF wants state power to implement its policy pillars. That's that."

On the way forward, especially the passing of municipal budgets and integrated development plans (IDPs), Ndlozi said the EFF would negotiate the best possible service delivery deal for its core constituency, the marginalised black poor.

"We are not unsophisticated. We are aware of the current laws governing municipalities and we respect the rule of law. We will see to it that in Tshwane, for instance, a non-corrupt budget shifts so that the poor of Hammanskraal and Soshanguve are the main beneficiaries, and that the burden of rates and taxes are spread fairly. Otherwise, we will not support the budget and the IDP."

James Selfe of the DA:

In his version of events, Selfe said no formal coalition or cooperation talks had taken place with any political parties before the election results' trends had become known.

"The first discussions took place on the floor of the election results centre in Tshwane, once the arithmatic showed the centrality of the EFF and the smaller opposition parties.

"I first made contact with Floyd Shivambu, and we discussed the situation regarding hung councils.

"We knew agreement with the smaller parties was going to be very important, so I also had discussions with the ACDP, Cope and the Freedom Front Plus on the election results centre floor.

"We let it be known that we were open for business, and by the time we left the election results centre, all of us had a loose understanding of what we were dealing with

"The DA had set up a coalition negotiations reference group, consisting of Patricia de Lille, Patricia Kopane, Thomas Walters and I, and we set about planning.

"Then, on Sunday 7 August, we met the EFF in Centurion. The EFF decided to involve their top six leaders and asked that we do the same, so we obliged.

"At that meeting, the EFF raised its issues. These were issues of national rather than municipal policy, such as leaving Die Stem out of the national anthem, expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of mines and so forth. They invited our response, which we agreed to give.

"As the DA, we were now running three parallel negotiation processes - one with the EFF, a second with the IFP and a third with the smaller opposition parties.

"With the IFP, we agreed to support their candidates for executive office in KwaZulu Natal hung councils, and they agreed to support our executive candidates in Gauteng. That agreement stands.

"Also on Sunday the 7th, we met with the smaller parties. It was a meeting where throats were cleared. They were very angry wih us about an election sms where we had asked voters not to waste their vote on smaller parties, and also about the way they felt we had treated them before.

"We took it on  the chin, and we decided to implement the will of the people and thus to co-govern, and proceeded to edit a draft agreement on co-governance - process of change and editing which continued for the next few days.

"On Wednesday, August 10th, we had our second meeting with the EFF. We again raised the issue that they wanted to discuss matters which fell outside the realm of municipal governance. We said we were happy to have those discussions, but that municipal governance was actually about roads, sewerage and the like.

"The EFF said that they understood our position. We undertook to engage with them on their issues of national concern, noting that mines were almost nationalised already, given all the taxes and levies payable by the mining sector!

"During that second meeting on the 10th, the EFF also raised for the first time that they did not want to co-govern with us. They said that they were in parallel discussions with the ANC, and were considering supporting our candidates for executive office. We set the date for the third meeting for Monday, 15th August.

"On the 15th, we had our third meeting with the EFF. They informed us that they would support our candidates as the lesser of two evils when compared to the ANC. They confirmed that they wanted no executive responsibility.

"We then set about discussing the modalities of how this would work. The EFF understood that we could not be elected to govern, and then be emasculated.

"Regarding the passing of budgets and IDPs, they require support of 50% plus one. The understanding is that each party will arrive with its preferences, and that everybody will try their best to reach consensus. If no consensus can be reached, it will be escalated to a dispute resolution committee including myself and Godrich Gardee.

"In that meeting, Julius Malema raised the EFF's unhappiness with the candidature of Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg for the first time. As the DA, we said we would think about it. It was discussed by the DA leadership on Wednesday 17 August, and the party decided to stand by its candidate.

"In the mean time, the content of coalition agreements with the smaller parties was finalised and signed on the evening of Tuesday, 16 August, when it was signed," said Selfe.

Selfe denied that there was a difference of opinion  between him and Maimane on whether Mashaba should remain the DA's Johannesburg mayoral candidate.

"We discussed it and agreed much is at stake in Johannesburg, where there will have to be very close political management. The EFF has agreed that the Mashaba issue is not a dealbreaker, so he will be mayor," said Selfe.

EFF Ndlozi confirmed on Friday that the EFF would vote for Mashaba despite their misgivings if he remained the DA candidate.

Selfe said that the DA, which had quietly trained 150 people before the election to help run municipalities the party gained, was aware of concerns that it would not have the capacity to run all the municipalities it had so unexpectedly quite as well as its brand demanded.

"We will start interacting with the new mayors and councillors next week, and use assistance from people who have gained experience in the councils we have governed before.

"We will also send officials for SALGA and National Treasury training. We will monitor these municipalities very closely, and will do interventions as required.

"This will include training on how to handle the situations in multi-party governaance, wher one has to be humble, attentive and always count your words," said Selfe.

Selfe said he had had several weird experiences during the negotiations, but none stranger than his meeting with Patriotic Alliance leader Gaeton McKenzie, in a parking garage in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

"We wanted the PA's cooperation in Ekurhuleni. The only place we could meet Mr McKenzie was in the parking garage. He said that he was ready to talk about coalitions, but that he had already signed with the ANC. As if he was some sort of soccer star. It was a short and unsatisfactory meeting," said Selfe.