Why a ANC-DA coalition would not work

Why a ANC-DA coalition would not work. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Why a ANC-DA coalition would not work. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 21, 2024


As the election season draws nigh, uncertainty creeps into all political parties, and South Africa’s political terrain is now more precarious than ever before. Over the years the ANC’s influence on South African voters has been diminishing and this presents an erratic electoral ball game to the voters.

The dwindling ANC numbers present an opportunity for smaller parties to grow and perform better at the polls. These smaller parties are also presented with prospects to be deciding factors in the making of the new coalition governments. The volatile situation means every party stands a chance to be part of government.

Coalition government is not a new phenomenon in South Africa. In the 2016 local government elections, no single party won a majority vote in Johannesburg. This led to the formation of a coalition government led by the DA and the EFF. The DA used its influence as the largest opposition party to charm smaller parties, including the EFF, to form new municipal governments. There is no doubt that these political arrangements have immobilised municipalities across the country, and citizens are now convinced that coalitions are not an answer to the service delivery plight faced by many South Africans.

The ANC-DA coalition has been reckoned by many analysts as an inevitable electoral outcome in the coming elections. However, if we use the current municipal coalitions as our case study, it’s fair to deduce that the country is not ready for a coalition government.

Several factors could thwart the success of the purported ANC/DA coalition. The political arrangement between these two parties could be challenged with a policy gridlock: it is an inescapable fact that coalition parties must compromise on the ideal policies that shape their identity to accommodate the diverse interests of the participating partners. This will lead to gridlock and dawdling decision-making as participants will have to constantly negotiate. This process could cause adverse results that can lead to service delivery goals not being reached.

The ostensible ANC/DA coalition is a fallacy, and it should not be pursued at all costs, attempts to do so will be a waste of voters’ efforts. The two parties would have to compromise a great deal of their historical identity; the ANC and the DA have polarised ideologies which are practically irreconcilable.

This type of coalition government would be fragile, and it would negatively impact black voters, particularly ANC supporters. The DA policies have been labelled neo-colonial by various analysts; such policies would never address the poverty of black people. The ANC’s pro-poor policies will have to be watered down to accommodate the DA.

The DA has been accused many times of their subtle obedience to the West. On countless occasions, the DA has been consistent with its pro-Western foreign policy against the ANC’s left ideologies. They publicly supported Ukraine and condemned the ANC for maintaining a neutral stance.

On the war between Israel and Palestine, the DA has yet to call Israel out for their merciless bombardment of the people of Gaza. Though they will not come outright in support of Israel, it’s clear that they share common values. The ANC government went to the extent of approaching the International Court of Justice, hoping for possible indictment of the state of Israel on charges of genocide. The DA was opposed to this move and raised concerns that South Africa should have concentrated on continental woes faced by our African counterparts, such as Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe.

Manoeuvring diverse political bodies such as these would be a fruitless exercise that would hold the citizens of South Africa at ransom. With power divided between two entities, it would be difficult for voters to hold the government accountable. The blaming game will begin in attempting to obscure responsibility for policy fiascos and unpopular decisions.

The coalition partners of the Johannesburg municipality DA/EFF will always blame each other for their failed political partnership. None of them will admit any wrongdoing, this is the nature of politics under coalition governments. Coalitions in general do not reflect the true wishes of the electorate; in coalition governments smaller parties wield disproportionate power relative to their electoral support which may result in policies that do not serve the broader public interests.

If the DA somehow ends up sharing government with the ANC, and they manage to water down the current foreign policy, imagine South Africa pulling out of BRICS, followed by a tilt in their stance on the war between Israel and Palestine. Policy somersaults such as these are inevitable and would not appeal to the masses on the ground. The coalition government comes with discomfort and mistrust; this may cause a political uproar, as the government would not be representing broader public interests.

In conclusion, in principle coalition governments can offer opportunities and countless possibilities, this could be attributed to their diverse representation and consensus-building.Coalition also comes with intrinsic factors that can impede effective governance processes and political stability.

The process of forming a coalition government is time-consuming and the people of South Africa have demonstrated very impatient behaviour. The diverse policies of the two parties (DA and ANC) may require extensive negotiations and concessions, this may divert focus from the goals of the party, and it will slowly remove the involvement of the electorate in these processes.

South African democracy is young and fragile, and it would require more work and political maturity to achieve strides such as these. Coalition in South Africa needs more work. The DA and the ANC are not close to achieving such a political arrangement.

The Star