Whatever coalition is formed SA will triumph

SA Election 2004 - sun rises as voters queue to cast their ballots across the country yesterday. For the first time since the dawn of democracy in April 1994, the electorate has ordered the political elite to share power at the national level. Picture: Supplied

SA Election 2004 - sun rises as voters queue to cast their ballots across the country yesterday. For the first time since the dawn of democracy in April 1994, the electorate has ordered the political elite to share power at the national level. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 6, 2024


AS South Africa stands at a political T-junction, figuring out which way to go, many, such as the DA’s leader John Steenhuisen, dread a “doomsday coalition”, while hordes of ordinary folks express cautious optimism.

South Africa has never been here before. This is indeed uncharted territory, laced with uncertainty, trepidation, as well as hope.

For the first time since the dawn of democracy in April 1994, the electorate has ordered the political elite to share power at the national level.

After 30 years of solitary governance, the ANC has been given what, in football terms, can be described as a yellow card. It’s a serious warning. A second yellow card will automatically translate into a red card, marking the end of the ANC as a partner in the governance of the country.

In the same vein, the electorate could find no automatic replacement for the ANC. In fact, no party polled more than the ANC's 40%, giving Mandela’s party some 159 seats in parliament, the largest any party could garner.

The DA did well in retaining the second spot, while the new kids on the block, former President Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto weSizwe Party, replaced the EFF in the third spot.

It is worth mentioning that the party of the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi secured the fifth spot, behind Julius Malema’s leftist EFF.

That, in short, is the new face of our country’s political landscape. Down the line, thirteen other parties complete the total of 18 that made it to parliament.

Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance and Herman Mashaba’s Action SA each have six seats, not a bad showing for relative newcomers at the national level. Additionally, Musi Maimane’s BOSA, the PAC, UDM, Good Party, and Rise Mzansi are some of the parties that made it into parliament with either one or two seats. It is commendable. Mind you, 52 parties contested, and 34 couldn’t make it.

But now, it is no longer about the past. It is about the here and now, the multi-party coalition talks that are underway across the length and breadth of the country. The big question is: Who is going into bed with whom?

As for the ruling party (well, until now), the ANC, I think the movement is caught between a rock and a hard place. From the outset, the ANC’s trusted alliance partners, the SACP and COSATU, have publicly warned President Cyril Ramaphosa’s party against flirting, let alone tying the knot with the DA. This is a significant development.

The ANC, the so-called broad-based church, is traditionally market-friendly. A coalition between the ANC and the DA, we are told, is what big business desires. Additionally, the DA itself has already made it known that it would rather form a government with the ANC if that would thwart a “doomsday coalition” comprising the ANC, EFF, and MK.

This poses a major conundrum for Luthuli House. Just on their own, the ANC and DA can successfully form a government. Together, the two parties account for at least 62% of the votes. But then again, as the left of the ANC has already shown, it's easier said than done.

President Ramaphosa cannot, by all accounts, risk the disintegration of the ANC by embracing a party the ANC alliance partners describe as “anti-workers, racist,” and all other unsavory names.

That could trigger an ideological split. If that were to happen, it would be the first ideological split since the PAC’s break-away led by Robert Sobukwe in 1959. The subsequent splits, first by the UDM, then COPE, the EFF, and now the MK, are markedly factional in character.

The coalition between the ANC and EFF may not go over the 50-plus one line. They would need the IFP or the PA to sit pretty.

The PA’s demand, made in advance, is to be entrusted with the Department of Home Affairs. The PA believes that all illegal foreigners must be bussed out of the country en masse. “Mabahambe” (let them go) is the party’s regular cry.

It is a cry that is at odds with the ANC’s view of the continent, in particular, a continent that the ANC called “home” during the many decades of exile while fighting to topple apartheid.

It is quite difficult to figure out who will eventually form a partnership and on what terms. Discussions are still in the early days, but the parties – all of them – have only a fortnight to find each other.

And then, as for the DA’s ludicrous description of the ANC, EFF, and MK potential cooperation as a “doomsday coalition”. How ridiculous can the DA be? I mean, ideologically, there is more in common between the parties than there is between the DA and the ANC.

Granted, the conflicting policy standpoint of the leftist parties can be a major sticking point. One of the EFF’s seven cardinal pillars is that of land redistribution without compensation. The ANC does not share this standpoint.

And then, the MK Party wants to abolish the current constitution as it stands. There may be few points of difference, but they are of great significance as they are potential deal-breakers.

But the argument of a “doomsday coalition” by the DA cannot be left unchallenged, and I am one of the millions who are happy to take umbrage with.

For, the three “doomsday” parties are perfectly capable of governing the country. With their pro-poor agenda, they will represent the interests and aspirations of the vast majority of South Africans who endorsed them on May 29.

The electorate is crying out for transformation, access to business opportunities, improved life chances, and a general upliftment in the standard of living.

The majority of DA voters do not wallow in poverty. And if the markets, or big business, believe in democratic dispensation, they should support the expressed will of the people.

And as for the DA, if they could be left out of any possible coalition, the party will have to cooperate with whatever legitimate administration and play the role of a meaningful opposition in parliament, serving the mandate of the just over 20% of the voters who voted for the party that “predominantly black leftist parties” regard as a custodian of white monopoly capital.

But political differences should, in my view, never be accentuated to a point where they overshadow the avalanche of opportunities located in the strength that characterizes our diversity.

All 18 political parties have an equally important role to play in the makeup of our new administration, regardless of their size or ideology. Differences of opinion can be a strength, instead of a weakness.

Where we can’t find each other, we should simply agree to disagree. That is a sign of political maturity. If the 18 parties can work together, knowing that they ought to put the interests of South Africa ahead of anything else, they would be serving the entire electorate with aplomb.

As Steve Biko so eloquently put it, “there would be a place for all of us at the rendezvous of victory”. The majority of us do not have two passports. If we can’t build our nation into one of the best in the world, we will be doomed. Failure to work together for the common good of South Africa is tantamount to self-harm.

We escaped the worst hurdle in 1994, when the risk of racial conflict was sky-high. We can do it once again this time. When we work together as a country, nothing is impossible to achieve.

Whatever coalition government is formed at the end of inter-party negotiations currently underway, there should be no doubt that South Africa will move forward. Yes, the ride could be bumpy. But then again, no one said it would be easy.

* Makoe is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief: Global South Media Network