Editor’s note – Athol Trollip is the Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro in the Eastern Cape. He is a senior figure within the Democratic Alliance (DA) nationally.
Trollip was singled out by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema for removal from office, partly to punish the DA for not supporting the land expropriation policy and partly because Trollip is a white man.
Trollip has responded to Malema by writing an open letter to the EFF leader. Trollip is full of praise for Malema and the EFF’s work in Nelson Mandela Bay, but he believes Malema has misjudged the national mood with his controversial statement.
Trollip says Malema’s actions will not only harm all the residents of the metro by bringing service delivery to a halt, but will also return the metro to ANC control after voters rejected the party during the last local government elections.
It's been a while since we last spoke. In fact, our recent meetings have all been centered around the discussions about coalitions and co-operation post the 2016 elections and the management of these relations.
I remember how impressive you were during these negotiations. You were strategically pragmatic, yet resolute that you would not enter into a formal coalition with the DA. You were determined to maintain your independent identity yet at the same time you wanted to expose and hold the ANC to account for its corrupt ways. You defined the EFF apart from any coalition arrangement and refused to be associated with any political party.
This principled decision to create a clear definition of the EFF and unambiguous distance from any other political parties was an astute political decision, I thought. What left a more impressive and enduring impression upon me was the fact that when you gave your word, you stuck to it. This is a quality that I admire greatly, especially amongst politicians.
They say that, "a week is a long time in politics", well, the past 19 months have felt like a lifetime. In this time we, [DA Nelson Mandela Bay] have been in coalition with three other parties and have co-operated on a level of growing trust with the EFF. We have made extraordinary strides in improving governance and service delivery in Nelson Mandela Bay. In fact, the latest Bustech survey shows us going from being the 2nd least trusted to the 2nd most trusted Metro in the country in just one year in government.
We have also done especially well in exposing and stopping corruption. All this has happened whilst working with a competent, confident and hard working group of EFF councillors who have played their part as opposition councillors exceptionally well and have outshone all the other opposition parties in this regard.
We have also recently appointed one of your councillors to chair the Municipal Public Accounts Committee. In all the time this coalition has been in government, you have not once visited Nelson Mandela Bay as far as I am aware, this perforce means that you would have no first-hand experience of what is actually happening in this city. However, you do acknowledge that our working relations have been good, that I have not, "Stolen any money and that I am not doing a bad job".
What is confounding then on the strength of the above is that you have unilaterally decided to punish the DA, myself, this coalition and the people of Nelson Mandela Bay ostensibly because we hold a different ideological position to you on land and the offensive colour of my skin. These two things have been unchanged and self-evident since the first day of our discussions post the 2016 elections. In fact, you stated that you chose to co-operate with the, "better of two devils".
From one political leader to another, I think that you might have made a mistake with your latest threat and that you might have misread the national mood. If the DA had changed its position or my skin colour had changed, you might have had reason for your change of heart, this has however not happened.
I believe that ordinary South Africans of all colours want to be united behind a vision that promotes national unity, through non-racial integration and good governance. Our country has not been better in this regard since before President Mandela's presidency and since his retirement.
I believe that our people want to work and live together, get rid of corruption, grow the economy to create decent dignified jobs that provide independence from government and to receive proper service delivery, especially at local government level. I have felt welcome in every community in NMB because the people's priorities are clearly not racial division and hatred, they are about better government and improved service delivery.
Nobody wants to, "cut the throat of my whiteness", nor do they want to return this city to the very people they voted out of the office in 2016.
If the people of our country really and truly embraced your radically divisive rhetoric, your political party would have got more than 6% nationally and 4% locally. In fact, your performance in by-elections recently shows that the people of our country do not espouse this racial invective.
So now instead of preparing to govern as an independent political party with your own identity, you appear to want to hand this city back to the ANC which they had tried by every means possible to ruin as per the candid expose in Dr Crispian Olver's book entitled, "How to steal a City".
You used to call the EFF, "the government in waiting", now you want to give your arch political foe the city that rejected them, on a platter. This looks much like a peace penance and perhaps the path back into the party fold that you once swore never to leave.
Ours is a resilient nation that has experienced the worst and the best that humanity has to offer. It is in this spirit that I extend an invitation to you to visit Nelson Mandela Bay to show our people that you really understand and care for their issues and hear from them yourself whether they want the ANC back in government in their city.
Anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman used to say, "go and see for yourself".
Until you have come to see for yourself in Nelson Mandela Bay and until you have explained yourself why you want to give this city back to the ANC, your intentions will remain anathema amongst the people whose political wishes you intend to disrespect by imposing your will upon them.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Brieflyco.za
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