The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela flanked by President Cyril Ramaphosa and EFF leader Julius Malema at her 80th birthday celebration. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS
The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela flanked by President Cyril Ramaphosa and EFF leader Julius Malema at her 80th birthday celebration. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS

It turns out that two years is a really long time in politics. Back in 2016, Jacob Zuma was president. Not a day went by without a fresh headline about the latest invention of that marvellous graft machine called state capture.

Julius Malema was Zuma’s sworn enemy. When Zuma rose to speak in parliament, he was booed, heckled and cursed. White shirts moved in on red shirts, a little blood was spilled and Zuma chuckled on.

It was a simpler time, when the battle lines were clearly drawn.

These days, Cyril Ramaphosa is president. When he rises to speak, he flirts with Malema, asking him to return to the fold. The ANC has moved like a large political amoeba to engulf the EFF’s land policy.

Back then, the EFF went into alliance with the DA to take three metros from the ANC — Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg.

Strange bedfellows: Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Antonio Muchave/Sowetan
Strange bedfellows: Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Antonio Muchave/Sowetan

This week, the ANC and EFF got together with the UDM to wrest the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality from the DA mayor, Athol Trollip (barring a court reversal) and, even as this is being printed, are plotting to remove the DA’s Solly Msimanga from office in Tshwane. The ANC’s 89 seats and the EFF’s 25 would give them a slender majority of the Tshwane metro’s 224 seats.

So the ANC and the EFF could form a majority and appoint their own Tshwane mayor without calling on the other parties.

The same is true of Johannesburg, where the ANC has 121 seats and the EFF 30.

That would give them a comfortable majority in the 270-seat council.

Julius Malema. Picture: AFP
Julius Malema. Picture: AFP

They could remove Herman Mashaba from office in the metro, where he is taxing the residents to death with huge rates increases and new "smart meters" that miraculously record much higher energy consumption than the old ones — at least in my experience.

But Mashaba is not just a tax-and-spend Democrat. He has turned out to be a canny political operator. He has kept the EFF onside with populist calls for foreigners to be removed from the city centre.

Of course, should the ANC and EFF band together and sweep out the DA, they will have to convert their Machiavellian friendship into something capable of governing. The next municipal election is in the distance.

And three years is a really long time in politics.

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