Dear John, from John

In responding to the piece, “Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA is EFF-lite in disguise”, I thought it more appropriate to respond to you.

Ryan Smith, the ‘author’ of this article is your Chief of Staff. If we are honest, he didn’t write this piece on his own accord. Ryan was about as close to the inner workings of the DA’s Federal Executive as bigfoot was. After many years in politics, you and I both know that a Chief of Staff never has a public voice distinct from that of their political principal.

So, let us speak directly.

Herman was busy attending to the parents of 3 children in Hammanskraal (City of Tshwane) who drowned when they fell into a blocked storm water trench. It is therefore left to me to respond.

I may surprise you with this, but it is appropriate for me to begin by thanking you.

Your piece identifies that we are a two-month-old and yet-to-be registered organisation, and yet you feel threatened enough to write this piece. We thank you for your recognition, mirroring that of millions of South Africans, of the impact we are having in South African politics.

Let’s begin with your criticism of ActionSA holding some shared values with the DA. To an extent this is true and a good thing for those who claim to champion the constitution and a free market economy. Herman was initially drawn to the DA because he believed it shared his values. It follows that what the DA stands for on paper would echo what Herman stands for now. But I believe that South African politics should be judged on what they do rather than what they say.

For example; you say the DA is committed to unseating the ANC but everything your party has done under your leadership has moved forward to the past, making the DA less and less attractive to the majority of South Africans, and without their votes the DA is destined to remain a regional opposition party in perpetuity. Ideological “purity” is small comfort to those millions of South Africans desperate for change, but for whom your race denialism is an anathema.

For what it may be worth, I do not think you should ridicule possible shared values in a political environment in which it is certain that coalitions are the future of South African politics. One would imagine that a leader with an appreciation of this future would celebrate the possibility of common ground when South Africans want the ANC and the EFF collectively under 50% so that the future of our economy and constitutional rights are safeguarded.

This may be an appropriate entry point to correct your mischaracterisation of Herman’s reasons for leaving the DA.

Herman left the DA because it gave up on the project of being a serious political party that could challenge and unseat the ANC. He left the DA because it made the work of serving the residents of Johannesburg impossible, opposing delivering toilets to poor communities by suggesting Herman should rather focus on the ‘rate payers’ like it was a zero-sum game. He left the DA because we placed country before party, recognising that someone has to be able to unseat the ANC. Having left the DA myself, I identify fully with Herman’s reasons.

John, you speak with the political amnesia associated with career politicians.

It was the DA’s Federal Executive that approved coalition arrangements which relied upon the EFF. Herman was not part of the Federal Executive at that time, but you and I were. I witnessed you vote in favour of the coalition arrangement in Johannesburg, that resulted in Herman having to run this complex coalition arrangement.

You describe Herman’s Mayoralty as “one of the party’s biggest mistakes”, which I find disingenuous because there are, quite literally, hundreds of examples of now senior DA leaders, including yourself John, praising the progress achieved by Herman Mashaba.

It come across as a little politically convenient to call Herman’s Mayoralty “one of the party’s biggest mistakes” when you, personally, used his service delivery successes in the 2019 General Election campaign.

The desperation of your efforts to paint Herman or ActionSA as affiliated to the EFF is best summed up when you use the pre-primary school education of basic colour theory to suggest green and red are associated.

This kind of infantile argument no doubt stems from the fact the DA is attempting to repeat the big lie – that Herman governed for the EFF. Herman worked to hold together a complex coalition, voted for by you and the DA Federal Executive, and negotiated on an issue by issue basis to pass budgets, root out corruption and fix service delivery. As the then Gauteng Provincial Leader of the DA, I had to support Herman so I know the impossible task you and other members of the Federal Executive gave him.

In any event, to argue land invasions increased because of a fictious relationship with the EFF is complete nonsense. I suggest John/Ryan only need to look at the DA-run City of Cape Town where land invasions have increased dramatically – as they have all over the country.

Herman Mashaba built an entrepreneurial empire under the darkest days of Apartheid that has created value, employed thousands of people and innovated. He has chaired the Free Market Foundation and the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa. He brought this experience to politics. As a career politician, I doubt you have ever started a business or created a job. Herman Mashaba’s free market commitment is proven over a 35-year business career, yours is proven only through words.

I could go on responding to further points of how you label ActionSA’s leadership as misfits, but we know that most of them possess something that you do not – actual government experience.

Each of these leaders took the difficult decision to leave the relative comfort zone of their own political parties when these parties failed the people of South Africa. People like Vytjie Mentor and Dr Makhosi Khoza actually risked their lives to expose the very state capture that has become fodder for opposition parties. 

Most of all John, I would like to suggest that your time may be better spent worrying about your own party rather than ours. The recent by-elections show major declines even after the new leadership came in and asserted its values. Remember the buck stops with the leader, right?

South Africans want solutions John, and they are tired of political parties squabbling amongst themselves. ActionSA and the DA should not see each other as enemies when South Africans expect us collectively to unseat the ANC. Let’s perhaps prioritise South Africans first ahead of petty politics.

What do you say?