Ivo Vegter: Gayton McKenzie’s political Machiavellianism, dark agenda of betrayal and power play

In a gripping political exposé, Ivo Vegter reveals a darker side to the enigmatic figure of Gayton McKenzie, leader of the Patriotic Alliance. He alleges that McKenzie, a reformed criminal, manipulates political landscapes, betraying alliances and wielding influence with a cold, self-serving agenda. Vegter says McKenzie’s pursuit of power raises questions about his commitment to service delivery, his tactics drawing comparisons to gangster extortion, leaving municipalities in disarray. You can read Rob Hersov’s right of reply by clicking here.

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By Ivo Vegter

Mackenzie says he’s a reformed criminal, but his political tactics are nothing if not coldly self-serving.

The lofty promises of the leader of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), Gayton Mackenzie, have turned sour for many of his constituents and residents of the municipalities where PA councillors serve as ‘kingmakers’.

Mackenzie revels in the power his little party has: to dictate whether the Democratic Alliance (DA) or the African National Congress (ANC) gets to run municipalities, even though it has only one or two council seats.

Mackenzie has an image as a strongman who gets things done, although he uses it to whip up xenophobia and a hardline response to crime. He may be anti-socialist, but he is no liberal. He is a hawkish conservative. 

He has also been at the centre of several financial management controversies and has gained a reputation for being an untrustworthy coalition partner.

Insulted

In 2022, he felt personally insulted by a DA politician, and promised to ‘teach the DA a lesson’. 

That lesson would involve overthrowing DA-led coalitions and joining ANC-led coalitions wherever the PA could, notably in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Knysna, and most recently, Plettenberg Bay (Bitou). 

Turning coat has proved to be a profitable move for the PA, as it was rewarded for its betrayals with mayoral chains and other senior political or administrative positions, and, allegedly, tenders for cronies.

Despite its very small support base, amounting to only 0.8% of the national vote during the 2021 local government elections, the PA has now slunk its way into key positions in Beaufort West (mayor), Laingsburg (mayor), Prince Albert (deputy mayor), Central Karoo District Municipality (deputy mayor), Bitou (mayor), Theewaterskloof (mayor), Koukamma (mayor), Witzenberg (speaker), Johannesburg (not one but two seats on the mayoral committee), and Ekurhuleni (one mayoral committee seat).

The DA, for its part, openly refused to play this game of corruption, and refused to offer similar inducements of power or money to the PA.

Although the PA claims it is just an innocent party bent on delivering services to the people, where the PA did manage to wrench power away from the DA to hand to the ANC, service delivery has tanked. 

Beaufort West had to be put under administration. Last weekend, the premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, said he was committed to pursuing full administration for Knysna, too, if the municipality rejected its third and final rescue offer. 

Multi-Party Charter

The PA has repeatedly stated its desire to become a part of the multi-party opposition coalition once called the Moonshot Pact, and now known as the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa. 

The DA has repeatedly stated that it has been betrayed too often to work with the PA. 

On a local social media group in Plettenberg Bay, a post by Rob Hersov, the billionaire friend of Mackenzie’s who has touted him as a potential post-2024 national president, demonstrates just how venally his party operates.

‘It is very easy to save Plett and solve this problem’, Hersov wrote. ‘Get the PA to join the multi-party coalition like Corné Mulder and Herman Mashaba (and a number of top DA execs) have asked.’

He was taken to task for supporting what amounts to holding the town to ransom, demonstrating that the PA will do anything for a power grab, even if it is ‘to cut off the nose to spite the face’. 

The implication that the PA would use the same hardball tactics in pursuit of power at a national level perhaps suggests why, exactly, the DA won’t play Mackenzie’s game. 

Hersovs video

Hersov made his feelings clear in a video he recorded (while driving): ‘I’m actually quite happy to be kicked off the Protecting Plett group, because I just think, you know, there are too many people that are bored housewives, keyboard warriors or whatever, who just will never, ever, listen or see the truth for what it is. And the reality is that Gayton Mackenzie is anti-communist, pro-democracy, one of us. He wants to join the multi-party coalition, and he’d bring a huge amount of value. 

‘Corné Mulder [provincial leader of the Freedom Front Plus in the Western Cape], Inkatha [Freedom Party], and Herman Mashaba [leader of ActionSA] want him to join. But Helen Zille [chairperson of the Federal Council of the DA] and Leon Schreiber [DA shadow minister of public service and administration] don’t, because they’re threatened by him, they’re trying to push him away because he threatens them in the Western Cape, so Gayton has correctly said: “Let me show you what I can do”.’

Hersov continues: ‘But it’s a grave mistake. Zille and Schreiber are fundamentally wrong. And the people of Plett, most of them anyway, are… there are none so blind as those who will not see.

‘Now I don’t really care. I’m trying to save the country. I’m trying to get the multi-party coalition elected, but I think without the PA it’s going to be very, very hard. And with closed-minded people like the people on the Plett group – not all of them, but you know who I’m talking about – I just think South Africa’s got a problem. It’s not going to happen and we’re going to end up with the ANC, the EFF and Zuma for the next four or five years.’

Hersov’s contempt for the people of Plettenberg Bay, who are naturally concerned that the same fate that befell Knysna will now befall them, is palpable. His platitudes about Mackenzie’s supposed support for democracy ring hollow. 

Gangster extortion

Much more concerning, however, is the cold Machiavellian calculation of Mackenzie, who is willing to sacrifice service delivery to fulfil his personal political ambitions. 

The consequences are dire, as I wrote in my recent column on Knysna, where seven new senior staff positions were created for cronies as soon as the PA overturned the DA-led council. Sewage runs in the streets, endangering a very sensitive estuarine ecosystem; refuse piles up in the centre of town, causing a massive stink and rat infestation; and large numbers of people – Mackenzie’s own coloured constituency among them – have to live without water for weeks at a time, leading to a sharp rise in waterborne diseases, grave discomfort, and potentially deaths.

Mackenzie is willing to trample all over the people in the towns where he struts about as ‘kingmaker’. He is willing to adopt a scorched-Earth policy and hold the people hostage with his naked pursuit of power.

It is pure gangster extortion, which more than justifies the accusation of ‘political thuggery’ leveled against him originally, that sparked his vendetta against the DA. 

Hersov is right that the multi-party coalition needs all the help and votes it can get. He is wrong to lionise Mackenzie, however, or to believe that Mackenzie will ‘bring a huge amount of value’.

Mackenzie wants to be taken seriously and to be considered respectable, but his actions are those of a gangster who will happily sell out his own people for a seat at the table.

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This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission

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