EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The EFF has been politically inconsistent from the start.

So it is no surprise that their political opponents in the municipalities are taking a wait and see approach after EFF leader Julius Malema announced that his party will no longer be voting with the DA or the ANC in councils. 

The EFF has said it will abstain from voting, which if it follows through with its threat could hamper decision-making in some of the most important councils in the country, at a time when dysfunctional local governments are in focus.

The decision came after the DA refused to give the EFF the mayoral seat in Tshwane. Business Day established that the DA rejected the deal after the EFF refused to sign a formal coalition agreement.

SA can ill-afford dysfunctional councils in two metros at the heart of our economic hub, which can be the only result of the EFF’s behaviour

Malema this week made it quite clear that the decision to divorce from the DA in municipalities, after it had helped vote in DA mayors in certain municipalities after the 2016 local government elections, was a tit-for-tat move. 

The DA “don’t want to vote for us but they want us to vote for them”, he told journalists on Tuesday. 

“We cannot keep on voting for people who can’t vote for us. Power sharing means give and take.”

The EFF quite frankly is acting like a petulant child at the expense of citizens who voted to place it in municipalities in the hope that the party would work towards ensuring that they receive services.

But all the party has done is use its kingmaker status in metros as a political bargaining tool to bolster its own interests. 

In Nelson Mandela Bay it helped vote out DA mayor Athol Trollip because it did not get its own way. This was all because the DA would not vote with the red berets on land expropriation in parliament. So it was not even a local issue related to Trollip’s performance. 

The implication of this is that Nelson Mandela Bay has become dysfunctional.  It took the council five attempts to pass a budget last month.  

Auditor general Kimi Makwetu, in his 2017-2018 local government audit outcomes report in June, outlined the shocking state of SA municipalities, which are supposed to be at the forefront of delivery. Businesses are struggling to keep going as local authorities are unable to deliver the most basic of services such as clean water.

SA can ill-afford dysfunctional councils in two metros at the heart of our economic hub, which can be the only result of the EFF’s behaviour. These are hardly the actions of a party with residents’ interests at heart.   

The party has shown itself to be more interested in power than in helping those who put their trust and hope in it. It did have a significant influence on decisions taken in Johannesburg but is willing to give that up for no particular reason related to the governance of the city.

The next local government elections are about two years away and the stakes are high.

Judging from the DA’s performance in the May 8 general election, in which the party lost support from the level it had in 2014, and plummeted from the 2016 share of the vote in the metros, growing its support in two years’ time significantly enough to take Tshwane and Johannesburg outright seems like a pipe dream.  

If the political landscape shifts dramatically from where it was in 2016,  it could also render the EFF’s kingmaker role obsolete if voters punish it for abstaining from voting, if that results in decisions not being taken. 

Waiting in the wings are some of the smaller opposition parties such as the IFP, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus, which all increased their support in the general elections.

The opposition landscape just changed dramatically, and voters may very well do the same if their interests are once again undermined.