Dr John Ntshaupe Molepo
Pretoria - Today the local government elections take place. Metropolitan municipalities in Gauteng will be at the centre of contest because they are all currently governed through coalition arrangements.
A preliminary assessment suggests that the ANC will still struggle to regain power to govern, particularly in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Coalition will remain the order of the day. This much is consistent with the argument posed by the executive mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mzwandile Masina, in his book: Future Realities of Coalitions in South Africa. The book is critical for understanding coalition governments, especially as it is written from an insider perspective.
Masina emphatically states that we must learn to embrace the reality of coalitions. In particular, the people of Tshwane must embrace the normality of coalition arrangements. Among the highly visible parties that are contesting for power in Tshwane – the ANC, DA, EFF, ActionSA, DOP – there will be no outright winner.
Notably, both ActionSA and DOP are also most likely to make an impactful entrance, as well as independent candidates.
In contrast to national elections, local government elections are more about the bread-and-butter issues concerning service delivery.
This is not to deny the fact that the national issues in our body politic may influence what happens at local government elections.
But with local government politics and elections, the power of community dynamics must not be underestimated. For instance, the face or representative of a particular ward matters most. But so do the faces of mayoral candidates, because the community wants to identify with a person they know and trust that he or she has their interests at heart. It is not unlikely that a person may vote for someone who he/she knows rather than voting for his/her political party. In local government, ideologies don’t matter – bread-and-butter issues are more significant.
The ANC’s criteria for selecting ward councillor candidates had good intentions – to make the community elect their own candidates. But supporters of ward councillor candidates who lost during the internal processes are likely not to vote, as most of them feel that their candidate did not make it.
In Tshwane, this can be traced during the skirmishes when the people said: “No Sputla, no vote”.
Clearly, the ANC has not adequately addressed regarding its criteria for the selection candidates.
Again, the regional ANC leadership in Tshwane is not strong enough. This can be attributed to the leadership’s failure to constitute the regional general conference since their election – some branches lapsed without being launched, poor handling of nomination processes, etc. These factors are likely to impact negatively on the ANC’s ability to wrest back power in Tshwane.
In addition, voter “apathy” is another dynamic that will influence the electoral fortunes of parties. But is it really apathy when people chose not to vote? Isn’t a choice not to vote in itself a political statement?
The DA in Tshwane is likely to be the biggest loser but would remain the second in representatives in council. The resignation of some prominent black DA leaders will have dire consequences for its electoral fortunes. Dissatisfaction with service delivery will make it difficult for citizens to vote for them.
The citizens of Tshwane should embrace coalition arrangements in the capital. This time, it is important to make this coalition work in the best interest of citizens.
* Dr John Ntshaupe Molepo is a senior lecturer at the University of Mpumalanga. He is writing in his personal capacity.