Coali­tions fu­ture of SA pol­i­tics

2019 will be a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle royal

Saturday Star - - INSIGHT -

THE ANC RE­CEIVED a bloody nose in the 2016 lo­cal elec­tions when it lost three ma­jor met­ros to the opposition. Will the frac­tured rul­ing party be able to re­unite un­der Cyril Ramaphosa and gain a ma­jor­ity at the polls in 2019? Or could the DA and EFF over­come their vast ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide to oust the ANC? The South African po­lit­i­cal land­scape has changed dra­mat­i­cally since Ja­cob Zuma stepped down as pres­i­dent. Veteran po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist Jan-jan Jou­bert looks at all the pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios, go­ing be­hind the scenes into a world of po­lit­i­cal horse trad­ing to an­a­lyse the op­tions avail­able to the par­ties in the run-up to the next elec­tion. Will the old­est lib­er­a­tion move­ment in Africa have to form a coali­tion to stay in power? And what is the like­li­hood of the ANC’S turn­ing to the EFF to bol­ster its sup­port? This is an ex­tract from

Rule in 2019. Who will

In the early hours of Fri­day morn­ing, Au­gust 5, 2016, bat­tle-axe trade union­ist Zwelinz­ima Vavi claimed his eyes had seen the glory of the com­ing of the Lord. “Je­sus was seen walk­ing in the streets of Nel­son Man­dela Metro last night – he is back!” tweeted Vavi, giv­ing pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma a taste of his own medicine.

It was two days af­ter the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions and the unimag­in­able had just hap­pened. The ANC had been un­seated from the largest metro gov­ern­ment in its Eastern Cape heart­land. Sev­eral times since 2004, Zuma had said pub­licly that the ANC would rule “un­til Je­sus comes back”, rais­ing the ire of opposition sup­port­ers and many Chris­tians of all po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions. But he was wrong.

Not only did the ANC lose Nel­son Man­dela Bay Metro, by the next evening, the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) had con­firmed that ANC mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments had fallen in two more met­ros: Jo­han­nes­burg and Tsh­wane, and in more than 30 mu­nic­i­pal and dis­trict coun­cils across the coun­try. In the fol­low­ing weeks and months, South Africans watched in dis­be­lief as coali­tion pol­i­tics be­came a new part of our lives.

To this day, many South Africans be­lieve the ANC is des­tined to gov­ern. But those who still blindly be­lieve this is a given, need to study the cold, hard fig­ures. Na­tion­ally, the ANC’S sup­port fell from 62% in the 2014 na­tional elec­tion to 53% in the 2016 lo­cal-gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

Since then, the rul­ing party has been fur­ther wracked by ev­i­dence of state cap­ture, lead­er­ship dis­putes and fur­ther up­heavals, and its po­si­tion among vot­ers has hardly im­proved.

Zuma’s res­ig­na­tion and Cyril Ramaphosa’s ap­point­ment as pres­i­dent lifted the na­tional mood in early 2018, but many of the is­sues the ANC has to grap­ple with re­main.

The ANC’S slide since 2016 is also borne out by the num­bers. Ex­actly 118 by-elec­tions took place be­tween the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions on Au­gust 3, 2016 and De­cem­ber 31, 2017. The ANC put up can­di­dates in each of th­ese, and reg­is­tered an av­er­age swing against it in th­ese by-elec­tions, coun­try­wide, of 7.4%. An av­er­age swing of 7.4% against it in more than 100 by-elec­tions should make any gov­ern­ing party ex­tremely ner­vous.

While one swal­low does not make a sum­mer, it was in­ter­est­ing that the ANC made no dent in DA sup­port in the first two by-elec­tions since Ramaphosa’s as­cen­sion to the pres­i­dency.

Quite frankly, the ANC may be in trou­ble in the 2019 elec­tions. Un­til 2016, South Africa was a per­fect ex­am­ple of a one-party dom­i­nant state, so how could los­ing power even have be­come a pos­si­bil­ity for the ANC, let alone the prob­a­bil­ity it cur­rently is? The an­swer to the ques­tion how the ANC gam­bled away ABOUT THE AU­THOR

JAN-JAN JOU­BERT has cov­ered par­lia­ment since 2001 for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions and jour­nal­ism plat­forms, and was pre­vi­ously po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor of Die Burger, Beeld and Rap­port, as well as deputy po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor of the Sun­day Times. He has lec­tured jour­nal­ism at sev­eral ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions. He is often called on for po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes.when he is not keep­ing a close eye on politi­cians, Jou­bert re­views books and acts as a pan­elist for jour­nal­ism awards. He lives in Cape Town. ar­guably the largest moral, po­lit­i­cal and lib­er­a­tion div­i­dend in the his­tory of the world will be ex­am­ined in this book – as will the fas­ci­nat­ing dy­nam­ics of how a non-ide­o­log­i­cal opposition co-op­er­a­tive agree­ment came into be­ing since 2016, and its pos­si­ble im­pact on elec­tion re­sults in 2019.

Will 2019 bring a na­tional coali­tion gov­ern­ment? Who might con­sti­tute that gov­ern­ment? What are the chances of the ANC and the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) team­ing up? Or will the EFF and the DA, the odd cou­ple of many mu­nic­i­pal co-op­er­a­tive gov­ern­ments, join their fel­low opposition par­ties in gang­ing up on the ANC?

Which pol­icy is­sues could de­cide who the part­ners in gov­ern­ment will be? What dif­fer­ence will the elec­tion of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader and pres­i­dent make to the gov­ern­ing party’s for­tunes? And, per­haps most im­por­tantly, what will the pub­lic make of the po­ten­tially gamechang­ing pro­posal Ramaphosa has up his sleeve to draw opposition par­ties into an Anc-led gov­ern­ment?

Come 2019, the stakes will be in­com­pa­ra­ble to any elec­tion since 1994, and the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate change from those days of rel­a­tive po­lit­i­cal bon­homie will be com­plete. It will be a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle royal with the ul­ti­mate re­ward on of­fer – the power to par­tic­i­pate in the na­tional gov­ern­ment.

In essence, the na­tional and pro­vin­cial elec­tions of 2019 will be fought be­tween those vot­ers who be­lieve the ANC un­der Ramaphosa can rid it­self of cor­rup­tion and those who be­lieve it can­not. Ei­ther way, the only party that can real­is­ti­cally aim for an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity above 50% in South Africa’s sys­tem of com­plete pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion at na­tional and pro­vin­cial level is the ANC.

But given the con­tin­ued and un­prece­dented flow of sup­port away from the ANC to var­i­ous opposition par­ties, there is a def­i­nite pos­si­bil­ity of the ANC dip­ping un­der 50%. If so, coali­tions are the fu­ture of South African pol­i­tics, on a pro­vin­cial and prob­a­bly a na­tional level, as they al­ready in­creas­ingly are on a mu­nic­i­pal level.

If the ANC does fall be­low 50% of the vote, then na­tional or pro­vin­cial coali­tions or co-op­er­a­tive agree­ments will be a ne­ces­sity whether the ANC wants them or not. It would no longer be the ANC’S choice.

From 1994 on­wards, the ANC be­came the be­he­moth of South African post-lib­er­a­tion demo­cratic pol­i­tics, with firm con­trol over all provinces and met­ros out­side the Western Cape (scor­ing over­all ma­jori­ties in Kwazulu-na­tal since 2009). It was seem­ingly un­shak­able.

This led many a fash­ion­able po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor to state haugh­tily what I have al­ways be­lieved to be hog­wash, namely that the only true power in South African pol­i­tics, and at the same time the only true opposition to ANC ex­cesses and mis­rule, resided within the ANC and its al­liance part­ners, the South African Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) – in other words, that the only pol­i­tics worth tak­ing no­tice of was the pol­i­tics in­side the rul­ing al­liance.

That no­tion – over­whelm­ingly pop­u­lar as it was at one stage – blinded many in the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment to changes tak­ing place in the na­tional po­lit­i­cal psy­che. Th­ese changes were ev­i­dent in the word of mouth on the street, which is dif­fi­cult to gauge be­yond the anec­do­tal without a wide net­work of hon­est, non-self-serv­ing con­tacts or a polling ca­pac­ity.

(In­ci­den­tally, I have found that the only or­gan­i­sa­tions in South Africa with the ca­pac­ity to poll ac­cu­rately are the large po­lit­i­cal par­ties – cer­tainly not the com­mer­cial polling com­pa­nies, which are often very wide of the mark, for var­i­ous rea­sons.) But the changes were even more ob­vi­ous (and yet ig­nored – oh so wrongly and ever so often – by the many who ped­dle a nar­ra­tive rather than be­ing be­holden to facts) if one were to an­a­lyse the chang­ing pat­terns in by-elec­tion re­sults and reg­is­tra­tion fig­ures, which can re­veal an ac­cu­rate pro­jec­tion of ex­pected re­sults.

It is a core aim of this book to show how chang­ing pref­er­ences, qual­ity of gov­er­nance, so­cial and com­mu­nity ac­tivism, in­ter­party re­la­tion­ships and quan­ti­ta­tive sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis can be used, without too much ef­fort, by any South African in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics to ar­rive at a strong in­di­ca­tion of the out­come of elec­tions. In this way, one will not be un­duly sur­prised by our elec­tion re­sults, which helps one plan for the fu­ture.

If one re­alises that fore­cast­ing elec­tion re­sults is to a large de­gree a sta­tis­ti­cally log­i­cal ex­er­cise, sup­ported by tac­ti­cal, strate­gic and/ or pol­icy-based de­ci­sions made by those whose job it is to make them, rather than fol­low­ing an an­a­lyst’s emo­tional take on how he or she reads or feels about the na­tional mood and voter pref­er­ence, it al­lows one to avoid much of the bull­shit that has left so many po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts com­pletely wide of the mark in their elec­tion pre­dic­tions…

Should one be so em­pir­i­cally in­clined, one should not be as sur­prised by the 2016 elec­tion re­sults or sub­se­quent trends, as many an­a­lysts and other South Africans were – not least the still shell-shocked big­wigs of the ANC.

● by Jan­jan Jou­bert is pub­lished by Jonathan Ball Pub­lish­ers at a rec­om­mended re­tail price of R245

Who will Rule in 2019?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.