SA must get used to coalitions, analysts say
Almost a year into the multiparty coalitions running SA’s crucial metros, ructions are increasing
Almost a year into multiparty coalitions running crucial metros of some of SA’s most important cities, cracks are beginning to show among alliance partners and it’s about to get worse, say political and local government analysts .
This as the ANC in Tshwane unsuccessfully tried to pass a motion of no confidence against DA mayor Randall Williams on Thursday for allegedly interfering in a R26bn unsolicited bid by an energy company to refurbish and maintain two power stations in the metro.
Michael Beaumont, national chairperson of ActionSA, which is part of the coalition, said the organisation has lodged a complaint with the multiparty coalition over Williams’s conduct.
An investigation, which will take 60 days has been set up, and “during those 60 days we are not going to support any motion of no confidence against the mayor,” Beaumont said.
The Gauteng metros of the capital Tshwane, economic hub Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni fell under a DA-led multiparty coalition after the ANC’s support declined below 50% during the November 2021 municipal elections, for the first time since 1994.
The ANC was effectively voted out of power in the metros after years of complaints from residents over delivery of basic services, corruption, malfeasance and maladministration.
The coalition took control of Gauteng’s metros largely as a result of the EFF electing to vote with the DA.
However, EFF leader Julius Malema has since thrown in his lot with those calling for Williams’s removal. “We support the motion of no confidence against the mayor in Tshwane. We are the ones who exposed the corruption in Tshwane where the mayor was trying to coerce staff members to do illegal things,” Malema said.
Regarding the future of Nelson Mandela Bay — Eastern Cape’s largest metro and manufacturing hub — Malema said he had a discussion with transport minister and head of ANC elections, Fikile Mbalula.
“I said we [the EFF] want them [ANC] to remove the mayor of the ANC [Eugene Johnson] because she messed up the appointment of the city manager, against the resolution of council. We can’t have a delinquent presiding over that municipality. We are more than ready to vote with the ANC on condition they remove that mayor,” Malema.
The DA has also been making moves to take over the metro through a multiparty coalition, but Malema said the DA must count the EFF out of it.
“We are not going to vote with the DA, the DA doesn’t want us. [We will not be part of any nonsense of voting with the DA]. In any municipality where the DA is desperate and wants our vote to emerge, we are going to show them flames,” he said.
“We will vote with the DA where our local structures have developed working relations with the DA and can vouch for them. We are not going to give Nelson Mandela [Bay metro] to the DA. If the ANC is not going to remove that mayor and put a proper candidate, we will abstain.”
Nelson Mandela Bay DA councillor and mayoral candidate Retief Odendaal said last week the metro was in need of a new government “with the ANC-led administration recording historic failures with regards to finances and service delivery. The facts read like a horror story of mismanagement and neglect”.
“Under the ANC the metro has now totally broken down and in certain aspects has reached some of its worst performances ever recorded,” Odendaal said.
He said the metro was saddled with a R9bn debt, had the lowest collection rate at 76% and at 54,630 had the lowest number of indigent households being serviced, among other challenges. The metro had about 20,000 potholes and about 5,000 sewage blockages.
“The DA and like-minded parties in council — the ACDP, FF Plus, AIC, AIM, PAC and UDM — recently signed a coalition agreement with the sole purpose of taking over government and getting Nelson Mandela Bay working again,” said Odendaal.
“The DA and our coalition partners will make addressing these issues our top priorities should we regain control of Nelson Mandela Bay. We need good governance to return to the municipality if we are to get Nelson Mandela Bay working again.”
Odendaal said residents deserved better and that a DA-led coalition would return the metro to its rightful place as the “economic powerhouse of the province and beacon of service delivery and good governance”.
The metro, which is gripped by a debilitating water shortage, is Eastern Cape’s biggest and is home to Volkswagen SA and Ford manufacturing plants, with two of the province’s three ports, Port Elizabeth and Ngqura, falling under the metro’s jurisdiction.
Dr Levy Ndou, a political analyst whose PhD thesis was titled, “An analysis of a coalition government: A new path in administration and governance at local government level in South Africa”, told Business Day that it was not surprising the country’s metros were experiencing “these kinds of instability”.
“In their own nature, coalitions in SA are not mainly established on principled foundations, they are not based on an ideology, but on the emotions that would be associated with the post elections results,” Ndou said.
“And another thing is that the agreements for coalitions are not made public so that ordinary citizens are able to make politicians account to how they have agreed upon in a coalition,” he said, adding this led coalition partners to having unrealistic expectations and demands.
“Equally, those who are being isolated from the coalition would constantly be plotting and planning the downfall of those in a coalition. In a nutshell, coalitions in SA end up not benefiting ordinary citizens,” said Ndou.
Governance expert and former Johannesburg city manager Trevor Fowler told a Gauteng provincial congress of the SA Local Government Association earlier this year , that coalitions tended to focus more on clinging to power than addressing challenges faced by people at grassroots level. Fowler, a professor at the Wits School of Governance, said decisions by governing coalitions were not made “on the basis of what’s best for our communities at all times”.
Elections analyst Wayne Sussman told Business Day that as time goes by, “SA is going to get more and more used to coalitions”.
“Traditionally, they had been a feature of KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape politics, now, after the 2021 local government elections, every province has a coalition,” Sussman said.
“Coalitions have a lot of challenges, I also think that there is a certain maturity [needed] to managing coalitions, both from large and smaller parties.”
Sussman said: “These kinds of ructions [at the metros] are expected [and] they are going to get worse. South Africans need to get more used to coalitions.”
Former executive mayor of Ekurhuleni Mzwandile Masina, who wrote a book titled, Future Realities of Coalitions in South Africa: Reflections on Coalition Governments in the Metros: 2016-2021, said the book’s key observations are that coalition governments “are a future reality in the country”.
Masina, the ANC councillor who had led the metro by way of a multiparty coalition since 2016, lost the mayoral chain to veteran DA councillor Tania Campbell after the local government elections in November 2021.
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