Coali­tion gov­ern­ment on the cards for 2019

Op­po­si­tion par­ties should pre­pare them­selves for more power fol­low­ing the elec­tions in 2019, but should also re­alise that the ANC is bound to put up a fight.

Finweek English Edition - - OPINION - Ed­i­to­rial@fin­ Le­siba Seshoka served as spokesper­son of the National Union of Minework­ers for seven years. He cur­rently works as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor: cor­po­rate re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

tre­sult­she of the re­cent mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions con­firmed not only the dilemma the South African elec­torate is faced with, but also its dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the cor­rup­tion off-ramp the rul­ing ANC has ev­i­dently taken. The re­sults also in­di­cated, for the first time since the dawn of lo­cal democ­racy, that it is pos­si­ble for the ANC to lose an elec­tion to the op­po­si­tion.

Since 1994 the ANC has dom­i­nated South African pol­i­tics with a huge elec­toral ma­jor­ity. How­ever, the elec­torate ap­pears to have drawn a line in the sand with the last elec­tion, re­sult­ing in the rul­ing party suf­fer­ing huge de­clines in sup­port in Nel­son Man­dela Bay, Tsh­wane and Jo­han­nes­burg. These met­ros, now led by the DA in coali­tion with other op­po­si­tion par­ties, have a com­bined bud­get of al­most R100bn.

The dilemma that faced the elec­torate was hav­ing to choose be­tween the ar­ro­gance and cor­rup­tion of the ANC, the per­ceived racism of the DA and the buf­foon­ery of the EFF. The dilemma is ev­i­dent in that no sin­gle party en­joyed an out­right ma­jor­ity in the lead­ing met­ros and that about 3m vot­ers de­cided to stay away from the polls.

Nev­er­the­less, the DA in­creased its sup­port sub­stan­tially from a mea­gre 16.2% in 2006 to 23.9% in 2011, to 27.1% in 2016. On the other hand, the ANC’s sup­port de­clined from 64.8% in 2006 to 61.9% in 2011, to 54% in 2016.

Much of the lost sup­port is of course be­cause of the ANC’s own do­ing. Its scan­dal-rid­den pres­i­dent, Ja­cob Zuma, is yet to have his day in court to an­swer to 783 pos­si­ble charges, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion, rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing. This, in ad­di­tion to the mis­use of pub­lic money to up­grade Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, as well as the close busi­ness ties his chil­dren en­joy with the Gupta fam­ily, has caused many South Africans to desert the rul­ing party, but some are still un­sure as to which political party to lend sup­port to. With Gup­ta­gate and the al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture, the elec­torate ap­pears to be awak­en­ing to the fact that SA is be­ing run by some­thing more re­sem­bling of a crim­i­nal syn­di­cate than a gov­ern­ment.

The result is that the coun­try may likely be un­der a coali­tion gov­ern­ment led by the DA as soon as 2019. For that to hap­pen, the DA has to draw lessons from the ail­ing ANC and to look fur­ther north and learn from Robert Mu­gabe’s Zanu-PF.

As a party that is still largely re­garded as white in a coun­try where the political en­ter­prise is still split mainly across racial lines, the DA needs to reach out to blacks who still largely carry scars from the past. The trans­for­ma­tion the DA has un­der­gone in the past few years with Mmusi Maimane at the helm is sig­nif­i­cant and helped it reach the cur­rent mile­stone. How­ever, the DA needs to thor­oughly deal with the per­cep­tion that it is a racist party of white priv­i­lege by utilising its new-found sta­tus as a rul­ing party in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to de­liver the much-needed ser­vices in poorer com­mu­ni­ties. But more im­por­tantly, it has to main­tain its sta­tus as a party that is an­ticor­rup­tion and with mu­nic­i­pal bud­gets of over R100bn at its dis­posal, it has to make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.

Zanu-PF has led Zim­babwe since in­de­pen­dence in 1980. Like the ANC, it has lost sig­nif­i­cant voter sup­port in metro ar­eas such as Bulawayo and Harare. It how­ever re­mains a party in power in Zim­babwe as a result of the ru­ral vote. The DA, the EFF and many other op­po­si­tion par­ties have to move their cam­paigns from the cos­mopoli­tan ar­eas where the elec­torate can eas­ily see through the rul­ing party’s gaffes to the ru­ral ar­eas, where the many un­washed live.

On the other hand, the EFF would need to limit its buf­foon­ery in or­der to in­crease its num­bers in the next elec­tion. The rul­ing party’s con­tin­ued sup­port for Zuma has al­ready done much ground work to build sup­port for op­po­si­tion par­ties, and civil so­ci­ety is also in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal about the di­rec­tion of SA un­der his lead­er­ship.

The “Save South Africa” coali­tion, which com­prises of prom­i­nent South Africans, the clergy, ANC stal­warts and other con­cerned cit­i­zens and or­gan­i­sa­tions, is a sure sign that the ground is fer­tile for an op­po­si­tion takeover. The di­vi­sions in the rul­ing party over the in­cum­bent‘s lead­er­ship are the other signs of a party about to fall from grace.

But, with all that, the op­po­si­tion needs to fix its house and be ready for a coali­tion come 2019. As des­per­ate times of­ten call for des­per­ate mea­sures, the op­po­si­tion has to be ready for more tricks from the rul­ing party as it would not sim­ply hand over the coun­try on a sil­ver plat­ter. It is the last kicks of a dying horse that are of­ten said to be the most danger­ous!

For that to hap­pen, the DA has to draw lessons from the ail­ing ANC and to look fur­ther north and learn from Robert Mu­gabe’s

Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe

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