General elections due next year in 2019, against a backdrop of a fascinating political climate currently underway. The local government election in 2016 ushered a new governing approach in South African local government landscape, after the African National Congress (ANC) lost three key major metros to the opposition parties. The Democratic Alliance entered into coalition agreements with smaller parties, with the Economic Freedom Fighters also lending their votes to govern in Tshwane, City of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. While both the DA and EFF hold distinct political ideologies, it was interesting to see them at the early stage portraying a united front, however as we all know their marriage of convenience was based on a political principle as captured by Condoleezza Rice, which states “We need a common enemy to unite us”, in this instance the common enemy was the ANC.
Coalition governments have their own pros and cons and provide an alternative to the commonly known forms of governance. However, in the case of the DA and EFF, one could see that their common opposition to the ANC has misled them in believing that they might be able to live with one another once that common enemy is out of the equation. Coalition governments are based on compromise between ideological stance and ethos of parties.- Already, this definition presents a challenge in the affair that the DA and EFF have entered into since both parties have drastic and irreconcilable policy positions.
Their short-lived honeymoon has manifested in domestic quarrelling in the public domain and council chambers., particularly in council chambers were issues of local service delivery are debated and agreed upon. key council resolutions remain hung in the air, due to council meetings being suspended, with Nelson Mandela Bay being a prime example. One might argue that it is still early to assess the functionality of coalition government in South Africa, looking at the short period of time they are have been in existence and that like any other forms of political governance, also need to stand sufficient test of time.
However, the current developments require an honest introspection considering the upcoming national elections in 2019. The unfolding situation in Nelson Mandela Bay shows that it will be a tit-for-tat affair and the failure by one party to back the other in one sphere of government, might result in ordinary citizens bearing the brunt of decisions not being taken and implemented. Will the EFF go into bed with the DA, should we find ourselves in a similar situation to the one in 2016? One would certainly agree that the ANC and EFF are a much better fit, considering their policies are similar and loosely based on the Freedom Charter.
At this stage, it is unknown whether we will have a coalition government on a national level, that will be clearer closer to the elections, but that should not stop us from starting the conversation now.