The national ruling alliance argued forcefully after its thrashing in Cape Town and after suffering reduced majorities in seven of eight metropolitan cities, that the opposition’s strength was based on a “class-biased” agenda, which only appealed to wealthier areas – and it had a limit of about 25 percent of the population.
It also spelled a danger of corporate-sector boardrooms effectively driving the agenda of policy and decision making at local government level, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin – key alliance partners who serve in President Jacob Zuma’s government – argued in the party’s Umsebenzi Online.
“Its (the DA’s) effective agenda is to place large areas of policy and decision making in the hands of unelected economic elite in private corporate boardrooms.”
In the wake of the ANC’s poor showing in the Western Cape and Cape Town, Cronin acknowledged DA leader and Premier Helen Zille had conducted an energetic campaign, but argued it was “retrofitted”.
While it had left behind the earlier “fight back” mentality of former leader Tony Leon, it had focused on “delivery for all”, which did not mean there would be effective transformation.
Cronin argued there were deeply embedded business interests and entrenched interests of the propertied classes.
The bulk of them were concerned that spatial transformation – including the movement of poor and black people into their neighbourhoods – would affect property values, he said.
Nzimande and Cronin argued power would effectively shift to the private sector – at least in DA-controlled municipalities.
They said Zille’s agenda was that of protecting “inequitable privilege”, which she dressed up by the more palatable election tool of “maintaining standards”, while still claiming to deliver “to all”.
This concealed “a fundamental fact that it is not just delivery that is required, but fundamental transformation”.
“For instance, our towns and cities (not least Cape Town) are still characterised by massive racialised geographical divisions and inequities.”
Nzimande and Cronin said: “What apartheid planned, the private property market has consolidated and expanded since 1994.
“Property prices act to exclude the black and working class majority a whole lot more effectively than old-style pass-law officials.”
Johannesburg, which returned the ANC with a reduced majority, had implemented a successful model of housing by building mixed-income, medium-density areas between Soweto – the apartheid township for blacks – and traditional white areas.
“In the unlikely event of the DA driving a policy like this in Cape Town, it would immediately meet opposition from its core constituency (with) white ratepayers fearing their speculatively fuelled property values would lose ground because of the relative proximity of poor communities.”
Tony Ehrenreich – the deputy Cosatu general secretary who was defeated by the DA’s Patricia de Lille for mayor of Cape Town – said he would continue to fight for true transformation of the city by driving an integration agenda.
Both Ehrenreich and Cronin argued for development of housing for the poor on public land – municipal and state land, including that held by parastatals such as Transnet.
Cronin said it might be a good idea to do so even in Constantia – one of the wealthiest and leafiest white suburbs. But this would require proper public transport.
But neither went so far as ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema who recently called for whites to be driven off the land.
“It is not now a question of arbitrarily and unconstitutionally seizing white property without compensation,” Nzimande and Cronin said.
“Even at the height of the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, the ANC was absolutely consistent in arguing it was not whites who were the enemy, but the system.”
Many of the “deeply embedded structural features of this (apartheid) system still remain in place to this day, for instance, the racialised geography of our towns and cities”, Nzimande and Cronin added.
Ehrenreich, who is expected to lead the opposition on the Cape Town City Council, pledged to continue the fight for community and geographic integration. - Donwald Pressly