SA has recent experience of coalition politics at municipal level — but the results have not been encouraging. Coalitions in Joburg and Nelson Mandela Bay quickly broke down and/or were reorganised to suit the ends of the corrupt. Service delivery ground to a halt altogether in some parts of these metros.
While coalitions have the potential to inspire change and better governance, they can also have adverse effects if coalition partners do not gel or cannot compromise.
Considering the dynamics, coalition politics could essentially go in one of three ways in terms of governance:
- The good coalition: parties work towards the common good, compromise where necessary, and ensure there is equitable distribution of public services and functional government;
- The bad coalition: parties are unable to agree on anything, resolutions aren’t passed and the council is paralysed. As a result, nothing gets done, service delivery is absent and governance fails; and
- The ugly coalition: at least one big party and one or more bottom-feeders see an opportunity to profit. Coalition partners can agree, but the result is rent-seeking for personal gain rather than governance for the public good.
The leadership lacuna in SA becomes especially worrying as we head towards becoming a coalition country. Without vision, humility and integrity, the chances of establishing good coalitions are slim. Bad and ugly coalitions are the likely outcome, unless the centre ground can be found.
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