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It is not yet clear whether coalition governance is the answer to SA’s governance and leadership crises. Picture: 123RF
It is not yet clear whether coalition governance is the answer to SA’s governance and leadership crises. Picture: 123RF

For the first time in the history of local government elections in SA, the governing ANC was pushed below 50% this year, only garnering 47.9% of national support. The number of hung councils doubled from 2016 to 66, including five of the country’s eight metros. 

This shows SA is moving from a political system dominated by one major party to one that will require greater cooperation between parties in the form of coalition governments. 

While this trend is more ubiquitous at local government level, it is likely to start emerging at provincial level and even nationally in upcoming elections.

The ANC’s waning dominance is also accompanied by the consolidation of the opposition, with the DA, EFF, IFP and VF+ amassing 39.2% of electoral support in the latest local elections. 

A crucial marker of a maturing or mature democracy is the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another, which has happened in many councils across the country. Unfortunately, this is taking place against the backdrop of declining voter turnout: the 2021 local government elections registered the lowest voter turnout in local elections to date, at 45%. 

It is important to analyse the effect of this large-scale withdrawal from voting on the shifting of the political power balance.

Given the rocky history of coalition governments following the 2016 local government elections, which led to instability particularly in the City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, it is not clear whether coalition governance is the answer to SA’s governance and leadership crises.

At our next Business Day Dialogue, the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung SA will discuss the outcome of the 2021 local government elections with a focus on the implications of having more coalition governments at municipal level.

Hear more from: 

  • Joel Netshitenzhe: executive director, Mistra
  • Prof Mcebisi Ndletyana: department of politics and international relations, University of Johannesburg 
  • Adv Jennica Beukes: doctoral researcher and research assistant, Dullah Omar Institute

The discussion will be moderated by Prof Susan Booysen, director of research at Mistra.

Date: Tuesday December 14 2021
Time: 11am-12.30pm

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