LGE 2016: Will the Ideological Chasm Derail Stable Coalitions?

The Local Government Elections 2016 – LGE2016 – have irreparably altered the South African political landscape. With three major metros requiring coalition governments, diametrically opposed opponents will be forced to compromise. This requires political maturity which heretofore the EFF has not yet displayed. Instead petulance and disparaging taunting comments, often with racist connotations, have been the order of the day. 

What is the likely outcome?

Main picture: The inimitable Zapiro on the 2016 Local Government Elections in South Africa alluding to the fact that Zuma had commented that the ANC would remain in power until Jesus came again

How did South Africa get to this impasse?

The ANC has displayed all the classical symptoms of the arrogance of power. The signs have abounded for at least a decade. With overwhelming majorities across most of South Africa & with scant opposition within half of the provinces, the aphorism that absolute power corrupts absolutely was yet again validated. South Africa experienced era of the ANC acting with impunity with President Jacob Zuma leading the pack.

Marius Fransman - head of the ANC in the Western Cape is alleged to have assaulted a female member of staff

Marius Fransman – head of the ANC in the Western Cape is alleged to have assaulted a female member of staff

Even before his election as President, Jacob Zuma faced two charges, one for rape of a daughter of a friend and 700 plus corruption charges. As the rape occurred at his Forest Town home with no witnesses, the possibility of a guilty verdict was always dubious at best. Khwenzi’s defence hinged on the fact that she was a lesbian and as such found sexual intercourse with males abhorrent. As regards corruption charges were concerned, what was the ANC’s solution: scrap the relevant investigative authority, the Scorpions and implement the so-called Stalingrad Option.

Bathabile Dlamini comdemned females protesting against a culture of rape in South Africa

Bathabile Dlamini, head of the ANC’s Women’s League, condemned females protesting against a culture of rape in South Africa

The scourge of corruption has roiled the ANC for a decade at least. Apart from the President himself being implicated, this year the President of the ANC Women’s League – Bathabile Dlamini – admitted that EVERYBODY in the National Executive all hid some smallanyans­ – small skeletons – in the cupboard. That recalls the fact that at 30 MP’s were found guilty of defrauding the state on travel expenses.

To highlight the ANC’s insensitivity to the sexual misdemeanours of party members, the head of the ANC in the Western Cape, who is under investigation for sexual assault, accompanied Jacob Zuma during election meetings in that province, proudly proclaiming that his suspension as a delinquent member had been lifted. In a sharp rebuke, Gwede Mantashe denied that veracity of Marius Fransman’s comment.

What was Zuma’s response? As usual, nothing!

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe

But what the elections clearly indicate is that the era of acting with impunity and consequence is at an end.

The outlook for coalitions

Evidence from around the world highlights both extremes. Italy between 1981 and 2007 is illustrative of one extreme having fragile coalitions which resulted in 16 prime ministers over this period as a result of hung Parliaments and coalition governments. State functions ground to a halt as frequent policy changes effectively stalled the engine of government. The period was dubbed “the politics of the stomach.”

Even without coalition government, much of this self-same decision making has been prevalent in South Africa in the form of cadre deployment and cronyism. These policies have effectively derailed service delivery.


At the other extreme, the previous British Parliament was a coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. With maturity and cool heads, it ensured a successful government without theatrics and bruised egos.

That said, coalitions are like marriages: one has to work at it and one must not take one’s partner for granted.


What will happen in South Africa?

In the case of the hung major Metros, apart from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, the only options are an ANC-EFF or a DA-EFF coalition. Despite being a breakaway from the ANC – or maybe because of that fact – the more likely coalition would be between these two parties. From the politics of the stomach perspective, the ANC at the local level will endeavour to achieve this in spite of the national ANC being averse to this option. Given the animus between Zuma and Malema, Zuma would opt for another alternative. His considerations would be his dignity rather than his stomach as he is fed at the national trough.

Election results at a glance

Election results at a glance – from the Sunday Times on 7th August 2016

For different reasons Maimane of the DA would not seriously consider this as an option. Having them as partners would entail the prolongation of the politics of cadre deployment and malfeasance as many of the delinquents would be shielded from any meaningful consequences by their big brother, the ANC.

Policy-wise, an EFF-DA coalition is ill-fitting with the EFF being a radical socialist party and the DA being more of a Social Democratic party than a pure capitalist or free enterprise party.

The EFF breaking the doors down of the Gauteng Legislature

The EFF breaking the doors down of the Gauteng Legislature

A quick glance at the EFF’s LGE 2016 Manifesto, reveals a Utopian socialist agenda such as requiring at 80% of all goods sold in a particular municipality are produced in that municipality. How ridiculous? In most municipalities this figure would be closer to zero with even the larger metros battling to exceed 20%. Whilst some of their other proposals are more mundane and practical such as mandating that councillors will reside in their wards to requiring them only to use non-private institutions such as schools and hospitals. Such idealism will be sorely tested when government facilities are severely deficient as they are especially in rural areas.

The leader of the DA has already indicated that despite disparaging overtly racist comments by Julius Malema that he is not better than an Uncle Tom, Mmusi Maimane has graciously conceded that he will have to discard and ignore such taunts as merely electioneering. This shows his maturity and level-headedness, qualities that the EFF has not displayed heretofore.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance

The only viable basis of a coalition between the EFF and the DA will be that their focus must be vanquishing corruption, terminating cadre deployment and focusing their priorities on the upliftment of the poor. Anything else will overturn the proverbial applecart.

The EFF has spoken against the dilution of its message but political realities demand wise heads and not showmanship, otherwise the EFF will be no better than an ineffective ANC.

As both the EFF and the DA have a point to prove that they are capable of governing more effectively and are more capable than the ANC of providing services to the poor, this is their incentive to enter into a productive coalition which will address the economic and social imbalances in South Africa which require substantial rectification

In the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro the DA is not obliged to enter into a coalition with the EFF

In the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro the DA is not obliged to enter into a coalition with the EFF

The wisdom of the South African electorate in providing a stinging rebuke to the ANC must be applauded. In the rest of Africa, the liberation credentials of the first democratic government have enabled their erstwhile liberators to transmute into their future enslavers much like the pigs in George Orwell’s tale – Animal Farm.

Congratulate yourselves South Africa.

Now hold the incipient EFF-DA coalitions to a higher standard of accountability than you have held the delinquent ANC.


Desmond Tutu prescient stern comments a year ago on the demise of the ANC:

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