‘Spectre of chaos’ looms amid coalition talks

A potential ANC and EFF coalition complicates matters in any fashioning of a powerful election messaging, says the writer.

A potential ANC and EFF coalition complicates matters in any fashioning of a powerful election messaging, says the writer.

Published Jun 19, 2023


Nkosikhulule Nyembezi

Cape Town - It seems with the current “moonshot pact” talks among opposition parties, they are skating over whether to invite parties such as the Patriotic Alliance, which are in local government coalitions with the ANC, to join the 2024 elections strategy.

After their fourth consultation meeting two weeks ago, stumbling from one team-building mistake to another, the DA, IFP, FF+, ActionSA, and Build One South Africa leaders agreed to extend an invitation to other parties to join the pact negotiations.

By showing who these party leaders choose to associate with or disassociate from in their election journey, they cheer a slow-moving pact-establishment process first mooted by DA leader John Steenhuisen after his re-election as party leader in April.

But the invites to the Abantu Batho Congress, which helped the ANC to retain control of eThekwini in 2021 despite losing its majority, to participate in the next weekly meeting while not reaching an agreement on the involvement of the PA, which is in several local government coalitions with the ANC and the EFF, is a sign that Steenhuisen feels so hemmed in by the opposition buy-in of the “moonshot pact” idea that he can talk openly about which parties he would not like to include in the coalition.

Fundamental differences among opposition parties on what it will take to successfully create a coalition of minority parties with a combined majority large enough to replace the ANC could require him to resort to familiar future promises of townships-friendly policies in a 2014 pact manifesto.

However, a potential ANC and EFF coalition complicates matters in any fashioning of a powerful election messaging.

Not surprisingly, an emerging call for strategic patience in these coalition talks is causing some frustration among those party leaders who have worked with the DA in several hung municipalities formed after the 2016 local government elections and who say they backed off because they were not aware initially that the DA invited them primarily to implement only its policies at the expense of poor black communities.

It is that sense of strategic impatience and demand for forward momentum that may have provoked those in favour of inclusivity to invite widely ahead of a national convention in June that will finalise details on the pact and, most curiously, ahead of the vote of no confidence in Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda this week.

The results of last year’s polls predicting that the ANC is likely to take less than 50% of the vote next year and could require the co-operation of the EFF to retain power have provoked public speculations about the deals that ANC might strike to constitute the national and the majority of provincial governments, as if that would uniquely impede stable administration – an ANC-led “coalition of chaos”.

This argument is desperate and speculative, considering that, in reality, even two-thirds-party governments are coalitions of a kind.

The ANC’s 2009 victory, shy of a two-thirds majority, materialised because of the excellent synchronisation of the tripartite alliance’s internal coalition partners, which had co-operated in establishing a sellable election manifesto led by a balanced mix of credible candidates.

As a result of the continuation of that legacy, Cyril Ramaphosa currently leads a de facto coalition of a broad church in the tripartite alliance.

Perhaps the next level of coalition formation by political parties will inevitably see a great drift to ever more significant differentiation as the risks grow that continuing a common identity in an environment contaminated by greed and corruption becomes a euphemism for political stasis.

Nyembezi is a policy analyst, researcher and human rights activist

Cape Times