Can coalitions serve a fractured country?
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.