"A desperate attempt to discredit the book, Zille abandons all reason and dignity" - Michael Beaumont

The lady doth protest too much

In a piece published on Friday 5 June 2020, Helen Zille reminds South Africans why the DA is dwindling. 

Rather than climbing into the gutter with Zille, let's analyse the extent to which she is willing to play fast and loose with the truth in her efforts to discredit a book that is not yet out:  

Allegation 1: The Vote decline in Johannesburg was a result of Mashaba’s Mayoralty

Zille cites a decline in election results from 319 000 in 2014 to 274 000 in 2019 to suggest that “after three years of Mashaba’s mayoralty [sic], the party attracted just 274 000 votes.” 

As a matter of fact, the DA obtained 508 362 votes in Johannesburg in 2014 and 452 203 votes in 2019. Never let the numbers stand in the way of a good argument I suppose. 

The decline in Johannesburg was mirrored across the country. As a matter of fact, the decline in the Western Cape where Zille had served as a two-term Premier, was greater going from 57% to 52%. 

As a matter of fact, the decline in Johannesburg was less than all other Gauteng municipalities, including where the DA governs, and where it is in opposition. 

What Zille leaves out of her analysis, quite conveniently, is the role she played in that country-wide decline as she expressed the virtues of colonialism, tweeting the floor out from under Mmusi Maimane as the Leader of the DA. 

Allegation 2: Mashaba was not DA Material

I think it may be fair to suggest that many people have left the DA because Zille has become the arbiter of who is DA material and who is not. Mashaba is a champion of a free-market economy, non-racialism, the rule of law and social justice. These sound like values that would have been at home in the DA before recent times. 

Perhaps it was this last point, a commitment to social justice, that Zille refers to in branding Herman as ‘not DA Material’ given that Zille cites the much celebrated insourcing programme Mashaba drove as evidence of his non-alignment to the DA. 

This is a programme that provided dignity to nearly 8000 families of security guards and cleaners in Johannesburg who had been paid less than R4000 per month while the tenderpreneurs who managed them received R14 000 per security guard for example. 

The reality is that Zille has pronounced similarly on others in the DA not being ‘DA Material’, and has seen the likes of Lindiwe Mazibuko, Mmusi Maimane and Mbali Ntuli branded this way. 

Allegation 3: Mashaba alienated his Caucus and that’s why they would have supported a Motion of No Confidence

I gather Zille is relying on 3rd hand information here as she admits she was not in the DA Leadership when Mashaba was Mayor, and yet speaks with expert authority of meetings of which she was never a part. 

The tensions that arose in the caucus, drew down from the same tensions playing out in the DA across the board, over a contestation of what the party stood for. 

It played out daily in a contestation around delivering services in a pro-poor agenda, and receiving a backlash from people who believed the coalition government should focus more on servicing the ‘DA traditional voter base’ or ‘the ratepayers’ – the term being used interchangeably. 

I would advance that the cause of this division arose well above the level of Mashaba in Johannesburg. 

The fact that DA Councillors were willing to vote for a Motion of No Confidence is not a sign in a lack of confidence in Mashaba. A bunch of them voted for the ANC’s Geoff Makhubo over the DA’s Funzi Ngobeni, after Mashaba left. 

This speaks to a shift where the DA did not want to be in power in these coalition arrangements – something which can draw its origins to the Federal Council review report. 

Allegation 4: Mashaba was happy to hand over power to the EFF

The decision to go into a minority coalition in Johannesburg, dependent on the EFF, was not taken by Mashaba. It was taken by the DA’s Federal Executive of which Mashaba was not a part at the time. 

As a matter of fact, when Mashaba learnt the EFF did not want him in Johannesburg, he phoned the DA leadership and said replace me with someone else because we have to unseat the ANC. 

Power was never handed over to the EFF, nor to the DA or the ACPD or any other of the coalition partners. The EFF participated in the coalition arrangement by passing budgets and supporting efforts to fire corrupt officials. Through careful negotiation they even approved the Inner-City development programme, despite it being dependent on the private sector. 

Zille criticises Mashaba’s pragmatic approach to coalitions in local government, but this is what local government is about. It is not about ideology and international relations, it is about roads, houses, electricity and water. This is how the VF+ and EFF could vote side by side to approve our budgets. 

While Mashaba can stand before a judge and refute any allegation of political involvement in tenders, the DA would battle to do the same. 

Allegation 5: Various claims of lavishness in Mashaba’s Mayoral Office

While they aren’t worth dealing with individually, it is worth pointing out the following. The various claims Zille makes, including against myself personally. 

These were allegations that were tabled by the ANC in Johannesburg. They were queried by the DA and fundamentally refuted. The Public Protector even investigated these claims and found no form of wrongdoing. 

For example, Zille appears to have a particular fascination with my salary. As a former Mayor, Zille would know that salaries of senior staff in municipalities, are dealt with through national regulations. In other words, every Chief of Staff in a major metro municipality would earn similarly. 

What Zille neglects in her commentary was how the matter was reversed temporarily. Investigated by a multi-party committee and deemed to be correct before the salary was once again restored. 

Does Zille now suggesting a lack of confidence in her own Federal Executive in managing the government in Johannesburg? After all they championed Mashaba’s successes and his record in combatting wrongdoing, is Zille suggesting they were all wrong now that Mashaba has left the DA? 

Conclusion

I will not comment any further on these matters, as the book deals with them in great detail. 

However, in addressing Zille’s claims, one cannot ignore the fact that the lady doth protest too much. In what can only be described as a desperate attempt to discredit the book Zille abandons all reason, dignity and, yes, even statistics. 

If anything, it is a stark reminder of what is wrong with the DA and a suggestion that its decline is far from over. 

Michael Beaumont

Author of The Accidental Mayor

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