DA leader Mmusi Maimane and outgoing Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba after he announced his resignation from the party and mayoral position. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - New DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille has slammed outgoing Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, branding him as the representative of those who championed minority interests.

Mashaba announced his resignation on Monday, saying the election of Zille into the post and the rejection of party leader Mmusi Maimane’s calls for a redress of policies had meant he could no longer reconcile himself with the DA.

He leaves his mayoral seat at the end of next month. At the heart of his gripe with the DA is its rejection of embattled party leader Maimane’s vision which incorporated the need to address historical injustices, the party’s questioning of Mashaba’s relationship with the EFF in the metro coalition government and the election of Zille as the new chairperson of the federal council.

Zille described the push for race-based policies as equal to racial nationalism, which she said was not compatible with the party’s liberal values and its stance on non-racialism.

Mashaba said Zille’s election represented a victory for those who stood diametrically opposed to his beliefs and value systems, as they believed race was irrelevant in the discussion of inequality in SA.

However, Zille blasted Mashaba’s remarks as hypocritical, saying the policies she advocated were in place when he decided to join the DA. “The interesting thing is that Mr Mashaba joined under my leadership. He fully subscribed to our vision and values. These haven’t changed. It is a pity he did not pick up the phone and have a chat to me first,” Zille said.

DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Zwakele Mncwango said Mashaba’s resignation was premature, adding that the election of Zille did not change the party.

“If the party had taken a different shape or if there is an amendment to the constitution then you can say ‘this party is no more standing for what I believe in’. If the values of the organisation are different or when the party takes policy decisions that you fundamentally disagree with then you can say ‘this party is no more what I stand for’,” said Mncwango.

Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst, said Mashaba’s resignation would not lead to a mutiny nor resignations of other senior leaders within the DA.

“What will be of concern will be how the DA will hold on to Tshwane. If this coalition in Joburg collapses, will it not affect Tshwane and is the DA willing to let go of those? I don’t think there will be contagion of resignations en masse where would they go?

“Maimane still wants to stay and he’s seen as the symbol of black people who are not being given a space within the DA,” Mathekga said.

Unisa political expert Professor Somadoda Fikeni said Zille’s comeback represented a major setback for the DA politically.

“What I think Helen Zille and the others do not understand and are misreading is that they think the DA problem is just the issue of an administrative nature or effective leadership. They don’t think that the issue of identity in South Africa is quite fundamental and how you deal with the legacy of the past,” Fikeni said.

He said this was why the party’s conservatives were more comfortable talking about clean audits and good governance rather than redistribution and the historical question.

Provincial leader John Moodey said the party was disappointed at Mashaba’s departure as he led Joburg with distinction.

While the party’s federal executive was yet to meet to decide on Mashaba’s successor, regional chairperson and MMC for Finance Funzela Ngobeni has been touted by party insiders to get the post.

Maimane, who flanked Mashaba as he announced his resignation, hailed him as a hero and described him as a friend who shared his vision.

Maimane said he had been honoured to serve with Mashaba, adding that he had left the city better than it was when the DA took over from the ANC in 2016.

Mashaba said the multi-party coalition he led in Joburg had registered numerous achievements due to its ability to put ideological differences aside in the interest of delivery and clean governance.

Mashaba accused the DA of expecting him to govern arrogantly and abandon pro-poor policies offered by the EFF despite the fact that the party had secured only 38% of the vote.

The EFF expressed disappointment at Mashaba’s resignation, saying he had “humbly” led a city with the poor and not profited at the centre of policy planning. EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Mashaba’s decision to abandon the DA marked him as a steward for transformation in favour of the poor, who were mainly black.

The ANC in the city rejected Mashaba’s claim that his resignation was partly the result of Zille’s election, saying it was due to the dire financial crisis that he had allegedly plunged the city into.

SA Municipal Workers Union general secretary Koen Ramotlou welcomed the resignation, saying it would end his “reign of terror” on workers, including unfair dismissals and the withholding of R29million in workers’ subscription fees by the city.

Political Bureau