Could an opposition coalition in SA edge out the ANC?

Leading MPs from SA came to benchmark on Kenya Kwanza and Azimio

In Summary

• For the first time in 30 years, the ANC might not win an overall majority

Image: OZONE

Away from the Thabo Bester saga, South Africa is facing a General Election in 2024.

It will be 30 years since democracy and majority rule, and during all that time, the ANC has been in power.

There is a feeling that after 30 years at the nation’s helm, the party is tired and has run out of steam and ideas. 

There are those that feel perhaps it is also time for a generational change in the leadership, something that will sound familiar to Kenyans who remember the campaigns that led to the 2013 presidential election.

Perhaps we can advise our SA friends on how that worked out for us. That said, we never told them about how we thought electing a very wealthy man as president would mean an end to grand corruption, or, at least, less of it, but since 2019 they have learnt that lesson for themselves.

Earlier this year, in February, I was amused to hear that leading members of South Africa’s main parliamentary opposition party, the Democratic Alliance or DA, had been on visits to Kenya the previous year to study the country’s two main coalition groupings, Kenya Kwanza and Azimio.

The DA leaders I spoke to said the Azimio and KK had inspired them as had the original Narc coalition, and they thought the lessons they learnt would help them organise a coalition that would provide the final heave to push the ANC out of power. They had also visited Germany to study coalition governments there.

DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube told me the DA had been actively studying coalition governments in Germany and Kenya and were pushing for electoral reform in South Africa to strengthen coalition governments.

Coalitions are not entirely a new idea to South Africa. However, their experience has been somewhat erratic.

South Africa’s first government in the post-apartheid era was a coalition, of sorts, with the last apartheid president, FW De Klerk, the one whose grandfather is buried in Eldoret, being appointed as second deputy president. 

De Klerk served in the post for a brief while before returning to the opposition benches.

Under the country’s Constitution adopted in 1996, a voluntary coalition government continues to exist, even though there have been no appointments of opposition politicians to the post of deputy president since De Klerk.

That said, after the last General Election in 2019, current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, appointed the leader of one of the smaller opposition parties to the important post of Public Works and Infrastructure Minister. 

In a recent reshuffle, she was moved sideways to head the Tourism Ministry, which until then had been held by "our shemeji" Lindiwe Sisulu. (Sisulu's late husband was the renowned Kenyan academic and internationalist Rok Ajulu).

At the same time, last year’s local government elections resulted in several coalition councils across the country. However, since then, instability in the administration of many of the municipalities run by coalitions has become a problem for service delivery.

It is this chronic instability of coalitions at the municipal level that worries some people who are looking ahead to next year’s election, where there is a strong possibility that for the first time in 30 years, the ANC might not win an overall majority.

As some worry, others, such as the DA and other opposition parties, are seeing an opportunity to shoot for the moon.

The DA has, in fact, been so bold as to announce what its leader John Steenhuisen is calling a "moonshot coalition pact" with other opposition parties, in a bid to dislodge the ANC and form the next government. 

The moonshot pact also hopes to keep the country’s third largest political party, Julius Malema’s EFF, out of any power equation.

While many of the leading opposition parties are not against the coalition idea, some have already begun to grumble that the DA is taking them for granted and bossing them about.

The clock is ticking and there will be more to come on this issue in the next few months.

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