Don’t write Herman Mashaba off. He is here to stay and will play a key role in shaping the future of South African politics. He is the kind of “accidental politician” electorates across the world, including South Africa, are increasingly attracted to, yearning for and enamoured with, and that type of politician is somebody who is, among others:
(1) A straight talker who uses simple language which the electorate understands as opposed to vacuous bluster and sloganeering.
(2) A maverick who refuses to be constricted by party dogma.
(3) A doer who is interested in getting things done, as opposed to an amateurish, pretentious and half-baked theoretician.
(4) Not scared to take on vested interests.
(5) Well-attuned to the concerns and moods of domestic constituencies.
(6) Not afraid to make decisions, even if it means making mistakes.
(7) Genuinely interested in a pro-poor policy agenda.
Herman Mashaba is a microcosm of a global trend of “obscure” politicians who are shaking or will shake the established political order. He can be politcally naive, tactless or even downright reactionary. Yet his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses.
Frustrated, resentful and angry voters will overlook his shortcomings as long as his head and heart are in the right place and he is genuinely committed to addressing their concerns.
As Johannesburg Mayor Mashaba has cultivated a great deal of appeal and respect across political party divides. I know, for example, senior ANC and EFF folks here in Jozi who have expressed in private conversations admiration for Mashaba!
Mashaba has accumulated significant political capital and goodwill, especially in Johannesburg. It is up to him to decide how he wants to use it. He has the choice to contest the 2021 local government elections. He can do so by either forming his own political party, contesting as a member of one of the established political parties, or as an independent. Either way, he would make a formidable candidate with the potential to cause a huge electoral upset.
Who knows, he might win that election and get catapulted back to his erstwhile mayoral position. If that did happen, he wouldn’t be averse to using his mayoralty as a bridgehead to vie for the national presidency in 2024.