The Democratic Alliance (DA) has grabbed the mayoralty of two crucial South African cities. The party openly backs big business and has its roots in some of the white parties that existed under apartheid.
Solly Msimanga was elected mayor of Tshwane (Pretoria) last week and Herman Mashaba elected mayor of Johannesburg this week.
The DA’s success is a result of the decline in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) vote at the recent local government elections.
Crucially it is also because of decisions taken by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to back it against the ANC.
The EFF, which says it is a radical socialist alternative to the ANC, found itself as “kingmaker” where no one party had a majority in several municipalities.
For example, in Johannesburg the ANC holds 121 council seats, the DA has 104 and the EFF has 30.
Determined to unseat the ANC, the EFF made a set of demands to both the ANC and the DA and, when neither would fully accept them, voted for the DA.
EFF leader Julius Malema said, “A revolutionary can never be neutral. We are caught between the two devils and had to choose a better devil. We had to take sides, if we were wrong, this is history, let history judge us.”
Malema emphasised that there would be no formal coalition with the DA.
But the EFF’s decision is still a betrayal of those who voted for it expecting to see intransigent opposition to all the pro-capitalist parties. It should have refused all deals with the ANC and the DA.
The EFF’s votes for the DA mayors could, in the longer term, give a shot in the arm to the crisis-wracked ANC.
However, the DA will not find it easy to run the big cities. Policies of marketisation and privatisation will worsen the problems of poverty, lack of housing and health care that affect millions of black people.
This will eventually unmask the real agenda of the pro-business DA.
In addition there may be far more strikes and protests now from the ANC-aligned unions who previously tended to hold down struggles against “their” party when it was in office.