Mayor Masina warns big parties to be ready for coalitions
'Cooperation needed to avoid collapse of councils'
Dominant political parties, including the ANC, will have to soon embrace coalition governments as they were inevitable and help to improve governance and municipal delivery if managed properly.
This was according to outgoing Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina who said smaller parties had helped the ANC improve its governance of the metro since 2016 when it failed to secure a clear majority.
Masina was speaking with academics and bureaucrats during a webinar on the stability of coalition government as the country gears itself for fresh municipal elections on November 1, where some of the municipalities are expected to be fiercely contested.
Masina insisted coalitions were not avoidable as the electorate was increasingly disillusioned by dominance of single parties who sometimes failed to govern effectively.
“To understand this proposition, it demands a dedicated study into evolving patterns of voting, the changing demographics of voters and the collective thinking around the dominant party political system that is being rejected by the electorate across the board, including where the ANC continues to maintain majority support,” Masina said.
He said apparent rejection of single party dominance had been accompanied by the sentiment that this eroded the constitutional distinction between the party and the state in power. And that the prolonged control of governance by one party gave rise to “complacency, arrogance and corruption in the dominant ruling party, something which the ANC has been increasingly been accused of ”.
Masina, who wrote a book on tenure called “Future Realities of Coalitions in SA”, said political parties and stakeholders had to make sense of coalition and create space for them in their politics to ensure that they work to avoid the collapse and instability that marred many municipal councils since 2016, like Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
He said one of the required legislation was the one that would help To ensure that parties that entered a coalition agreement had to be contractually bound by the agreements to make it difficult for them to opt out whenever they wished to.
Masina said the ANC had advocated for overall control of governance in Ekurhuleni while the roles of accountability in council were given to coalition partners, including the AIC, who had to keep the party in check in terms of implementation.
This, he said, had radically improved the ANC’s performance in government compared to the 2011 to 2016 tenure.
He however stressed that coalition pacts had to be made open to the public if the agreements were to enjoy credibility and longevity.
Prof Caryn Abrahams of the Wits School of Governance said SA was not necessarily a politically mature democracy for coalitions but that this was the reality it had to deal with.
“It is about our ability to deal with that inevitable reality rather than something that will hit us by surprise and figure out if we are mature enough to deal with,” Abrahams said.
Some of the political parties that have jointly worked together, including the DA and the EFF, vowed never to work together as they were ideologically opposed to each other and on how they wanted municipalities run.
Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra) researcher Amuzweni Ngoma said while the “issue by issue” working relationship between the EFF and the DA in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay had collapsed, it had given and indicator that even ideologically different parties could establish coalitions in the interest of residents when there was maturity.
“That can be treated as a small moment where, when necessity allows it, political parties are able to cut across the ideological divide and try and find a meeting point,” Ngoma said.
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