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Herman Mashaba: Why DA, ANC a no-go in Jozi, Zuma must step down

Democratic Alliance’s Johannesburg mayoral candidate Herman Mashaba is upbeat following the party’s successful municipal election. And given this success he believes the ANC is left with no choice but to ask President Jacob Zuma to step down. The Black Like Me founder also feels the DA won’t form any coalition with the ruling ANC, and suggests they may accept the opposition role in Joburg. He speaks to Tim Modise

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Mr Herman Mashaba, thanks very much for talking to me about the Local Government Elections. The outcome has been declared. The ANC made a late surge and they’re now way ahead of the DA. How do you feel about this outcome?

Look Tim, we would really have wanted to have an outright majority. That’s why we worked so hard the last seven months – to ensure that we can dislodge the ANC. Things are what they are. The voters have spoken and I think we respect the decision that the voters of Johannesburg have indicated but we’re pleased with the outcome in the sense that (as I said earlier on) we’ve managed to dislodge the ANC. As much as they’re ahead of us, they’re not in a position to govern on their own so the ANC and we are in the same position – of not being able to take over the government.

So Gauteng (or Johannesburg specifically) has got a hung municipal government. Are you likely to form a coalition with the ANC?

Absolutely not. From our party structure’s point of view, we’ve decided not even to enter into any negotiations with the ANC. We’re happy to engage with everybody else, other than the ANC.

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Are you entertaining thoughts of forming a government yourselves? There’s no-one who came out with an outright majority here obviously, but the ANC will get the first chance of forming a government. How likely do you think they are to form a government and if they fail, are you likely to form the government yourselves?

Look, as we speak, our team of negotiators are engaging in finding us the smaller parties to join us in forming a new government. If they do succeed; without any doubt, we will then really be that new government. In the event of us failing, it would not really fail for any other reason than that we failed to come to terms/understand that a coalition is about saving society and saving the mandate of what people gave us. I do have confidence in our team that they’ll be able to conclude something but in the event of them failing, we’re still happy to remain in opposition, forge forward, really prepare for the future, and carry on with the work that we began many years ago to ensure that ultimately, the DA takes control of Johannesburg and ultimately, the whole country.

When you were nominated as Mayoral Candidate for the DA, a lot of people thought that the DA was making a mistake because you were not a politician yourself. Your background is business. You recently (meaning last year already), you were showing indications that you were interested in politics. What did you make of the doubts that were being expressed by people…that the DA was making a big mistake by nominating you Herman Mashaba – a businessman – to be their candidate?

Fortunately, Tim, my life was never determined by other people. I’ve always been an individual and I think I conducted myself throughout my life, as such. You’ll remember Tim, when I went into business in the eighties when the National Party under PW Botha said to me as a black man that I could not go into business. I remember quite well, starting my business in Ga-Rankuwa in a 200m2 factory – how everyone really thought I was just taking a chance, and that my chance at success were almost nothing. Because I believe so strongly in myself, I pursued and fortunately, here I am more than 30 years later. When I eventually took the decision to join the political field (realising that our country was on the verge of collapse) under the ANC administration, I realised I had absolutely nothing to lose. I actually had the opportunity to help save our country in the event of success and here it is…seven months later. The election results are out and it has surprised many people. We would have wanted us to attain an overall majority but fortunately enough, I’m a Democrat. I believe in democracy. I respect the decision of the voters and I will work within that space of the mandate given to us by the voters.

You say that the country has been saved from the ANC. That’s the outcome of this election. What do you mean by ‘the country has been saved’?

Well, Tim the country was hijacked to a large extent, by corruption and criminal elements. This has actually indicated that we’ve now given the power back to society. For any democracy to succeed, it needs a civil society to be active and actually being the ones responsible for controlling the politicians. In a democratic system, the voters are the bosses – not the politicians – whereas the ANC’s structure over the last few years has created a culture that the ANC was the boss. That is why Zuma made it clear so many times – “ANC first”. In the meantime, what we are saying in the DA in a true democratic spirit, is “people first” and people first is what the voters have demonstrated and we want to keep that. We want to encourage civil society to please, never again allow yourselves to be abused by the political leadership. If you vote us into power, give us terms. Don’t give us a blank cheque because when you give political leadership a blank cheque, they abuse you. I’m so glad that civil society has taken the power back from the politicians.

To what extent do you think that the personality and the stories/issues around President Jacob Zuma played a factor in these elections? I hear you mentioning him and one can make a case and argue that these are local government elections. The voters went out to vote on local issues and not on national issues, and most definitely not on President Zuma.

Tim, I remember at the beginning of my campaign when Jacob Zuma (on a regular basis) made one big mistake after the other, including his violation of our Constitution etcetera. We wanted Zuma out but at the same time, we personally felt that the ANC taking Zuma out would really be a blow to us. I was pleased when eventually, the ANC took the decision to really have him as the face of ANC at national level. For me, I believe that Zuma was a political gift to us (as the Democratic Alliance). In fact, all the other parties…Zuma really contributed immensely to our success because Zuma is hated by the voters, including ANC voters themselves. He’s not a popular political leader that this country would want to see. Why does the ANC insist on keeping this man as their political leader? They committed suicide. Fortunately, it worked to our advantage and we thank the ANC for allowing the system to collapse itself and allow other political parties…eventually allowing civil society to take back control of the political system in our country.

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You may have followed on social media…there’s a #ifDAwins campaign and people were coming up with all sorts of jokes. That gives you a sense of how people view the DA – that it’s a white party. The trends/themes that were dominating was that ‘oh well, people like yourself (the leader of the DA, Mmusi Maimane) just happened to be black faces at the top but in effect, the DA is still a white party. What do you think?

Well, I think that was the strategy adopted by Jacob Zuma to divert attention from ANC failures and his personal failures, by dividing our nation along racial lines. At the same time, what I think is actually even more profound is how the ANC and Jacob Zuma do not have confidence and faith in black people. Actually, it’s an insult. Anyone who would really take me to be a representative for someone else, particularly other races, is actually an insult on black people. They are saying anything positive/anything constructive cannot come from a black person. For them, it looks like for you to be an acceptable black man, you must be involved in corruption. You must be involved in immoral issues. That is not what a black person is. A black person (like myself and millions of other people in this country) believes in fairness. We believe in having moral values. People of this country – generally… You look at how the DA has performed all over the country. We did not really perform so spectacularly only because of support coming from the white community. I think our growth, to a large extent, was facilitated by black people who have had enough of ANC failures.

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In the black communities…because in terms of space etcetera, the outcomes of apartheid are still there, right? We see them in the way people are organised as communities in townships and villages, etcetera and also in the socioeconomic order. How are people going to experience the presence of the DA in government now that its increased its numbers? It’s now in charge of Nelson Mandela Bay – forming a government there. It looks like it may be the case even in Tshwane, Pretoria. What difference do you think the DA’s going to make in people’s lives?

In fact, Tim, one of the mandates I asked the people of Johannesburg to give me (all communities), was to give me the mandate of taking over. I’ve got to urgently go and address the ills of the past. Looking at the infrastructure in our communities…as I talk to you today, some of the people of Alexandra don’t have running water. People don’t have toilets,I personally feel it is a human right to have a proper toilet.

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