Political experts have warned that as the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) push to unseat the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Tshwane and Nelson Mandela metro municipalities and other areas where there were coalition governments, they would have to ensure satisfactory service delivery or face an ouster similar to the 2016 electoral embarrassment.
The analysts have also cautioned of possible voter disgruntlement, apathy and even “protest votes” that may be caused by the ongoing power struggle among coalition partners in the two metros and elsewhere. The ANC would benefit if protest voting occurs.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said those who wanted to grab power from others needed to be super-efficient at service delivery or they would pay a high price in the 2019 elections.
He said that if the ANC-EFF alliance finally unseated the DA in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, the nine months leading up to the elections in 2019 would be vital.
“The voters could get fed up. Therefore, they would need to have their ducks in a row, be super-efficient and show critical ability at delivering services, otherwise the voters will remove them again,” Silke said.
Another expert, Susan Booysen, head of research at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, maintained that the political circuses in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay had worsened political instability at local government level.
Booysen said the infighting among the coalition partners would lead to many voters staying away from the polls or, as a sign of anger, giving the ANC an overwhelming majority, which would enable them to rule without forming a coalition.
“The voters may get disillusioned and choose not to participate in 2019, and this was what hit the ANC in the 2016 local government elections, causing it to lose those metros,” Booysen said.
Silke believed that both sides of the equation (the ANC-EFF combination and the EFF-DA) may lose out as voters get disillusioned. Both sides were at risk of having diminished power.
“The electorate may become fed up with the entire process. They will also judge the situation on how it affects service delivery,” Silke said.
The analyst said the coalitions established after the 2016 local government elections were fractious because they did not have a strong basis.
“The DA-EFF agreements were poorly conceived. Coalitions work where there are policy commonalities, but the EFF and DA had nothing in common. You’ve got to choose your partners a little bit more carefully. That’s the lesson the DA has to learn,” he said.
The coalitions at both Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane were in tatters after the EFF joined forces with the ANC and other parties to remove the DA mayors.
They succeeded in removing executive mayor Athol Trollip at the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, replacing him with the United Democratic Movement’s Mongameli Bobani last week.
The DA has undertaken to challenge Trollip’s ousting in court.
A similar attempt failed in Tshwane on Thursday, when mayor Solly Msimanga survived after the EFF’s motion of no-confidence was disallowed by the council speaker, Katlego Mathebe.
When the EFF councillors walked out of the meeting, the ANC, realising it wouldn’t muster a sufficient majority to oust Msimanga, withdrew its separate motion against the mayor.
The EFF vowed to take the matter to court.
The two analysts said whether the court cases in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay succeeded or not, instability would continue in the local government sphere.
Booysen said the voter was faced with living with “destructive” coalition politics because no particular party was guaranteed an outright majority in future polls.
“It is inevitable that there will be coalitions, but the experience with coalitions in the metros is an unpleasant one for the voters.
“But this could work in the ANC’s favour in 2019, because voters may say ‘let’s rather give the ANC the majority and keep it accountable’,” Booysen said.
However, it would be difficult for the country to get rid of coalition politics as no single party may get an outright majority in future.
“We definitely know the coalitions are not working. They are very destructive and unproductive, but this is the only option if no party musters an outright majority. This is what South Africans have to live with,” Booysen said.
She said if the ANC got a substantial majority in the election, it had to increase the tempo of Ramaphoria.
“If President Cyril Ramaphosa is not sabotaged within his party, the ANC could get a majority.”