Can coali­tions serve a frac­tured coun­try?

Sunday Times - - OPINION -

WHEN I con­sider the struc­tural prob­lems South Africa faces, I shud­der at the thought of what an even­tual coali­tion govern­ment, which may not be too far away now, will mean for the prospects of ac­tu­ally ad­dress­ing our many grem­lins.

Given Ja­cob Zuma’s per­for­mance as both party and state pres­i­dent and the party’s in­abil­ity to hold him ac­count­able to any­one but the first fam­ily, we are more than likely en­ter­ing a pe­riod of coali­tion pol­i­tics.

This sce­nario faces us in about two years, which ex­cites some, as it fits a def­i­ni­tion of a ma­ture democ­racy. I sus­pect the ex­cite­ment is driven by just how badly gov­erned the coun­try has been for some time now and not by the be­lief that we are in fact ma­ture enough.

Are we re­ally at the point where South Africa can op­er­ate much like the Ger­man govern­ment of An­gela Merkel?

She is at the head of a rul­ing coali­tion of three par­ties, namely the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, the Chris­tian So­cial Union of Bavaria and the So­cial Democrats.

While most Ger­mans, or at least the large ma­jor­ity, come from the same ground zero as ev­ery­one else af­ter the end of World War 2, the same can’t be said of South Africans af­ter the end of apartheid.

We come with very dif­fer­ent views of the world and what’s needed to reach our fi­nal desti­na­tion.

Can you imag­ine just for a sec­ond a coali­tion govern­ment made up of the DA and the EFF try­ing to reach some sort of agree­ment on black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment?

It’s a topic that would stir quite an in­ter­est­ing de­bate within the cor­ri­dors of the DA’s Cape Town head­quar­ters. Now imag­ine that de­bate with a coali­tion part­ner in Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu.

I like this game. Now imag­ine one be­tween a much-weak­ened ANC and the EFF or the IFP when de­cid­ing on the cor­rect method­ol­ogy to re­dis­tribute land.

An ab­so­lute dis­as­ter awaits, but at least as coali­tion part­ner­ships go, there’ll be lots of hot air from politi­cians, but lit­tle to no pol­icy move­ment on any of these tough and fun­da­men­tal is­sues that face the coun­try.

And what that means is even fur­ther pol­icy uncertainty. Or, quite sim­ply, a con­tin­u­a­tion of the state we are in.

Now, as we all know, South Africa can’t af­ford to stay in this state of sta­sis much longer. The protests are get­ting un­com­fort­ably ever closer to Sand­ton, Umh­langa and Camps Bay streets.

Busi­ness in­vests where there are set rules; where there’s uncertainty, only spec­u­la­tors play.

While Wal­mart’s dif­fi­cult en­try into South Africa through Mass­mart is of­ten used as an ex­am­ple of a bur­den­some state, at least there were clearly marked boxes which the world’s biggest re­tailer had to tick to

Now imag­ine that de­bate with a coali­tion part­ner in Julius Malema . . .

find a park­ing space in Africa’s most de­vel­oped econ­omy. When there’s an even­tual up­turn in South African and sub-Sa­ha­ran African for­tunes — we hope soon — Wal­mart will be ready to pluck the fruits.

Since its en­try, do­ing busi­ness in South Africa has be­come a whole lot murkier and un­cer­tain. The re­spon­si­bil­ity of the next govern­ment, in 2019, who­ever they are, will be to clear the muck again.

And I am not too sure a coali­tion govern­ment will be able to. That’s the tragedy of an un­rav­el­ling and ine­bri­ated ANC. It only serves to heighten uncertainty for at least an­other elec­toral sea­son as we wait for an­other de­ci­sively strong player to drive real “rad­i­cal” trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­omy. Maybe they’ll be there in 2024.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.