Trollip's fall sign of things to come

Athol Trollip.
Athol Trollip.
Image: Brian Witbooi

The outcomes of the 2016 local government elections seemed to confirm that SA was now following a political trend that most liberal-minded commentators agitated for for years.

In liberal quarters, coalition governance was seen as the best possible solution to the one party dominance of our politics which - many argued - led to lacklustre service delivery by government.

Under coalition governments, it was argued, no political party would be strong enough to dictate terms in any administration - hence reducing the chances of corruption and total disregard for the electorate.

So when the ANC lost Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Tshwane and Johannesburg in 2016, it appeared that SA had entered a new political phase.

It was a matter of time, some argued, before provinces like Gauteng were run by coalition governments.

The era of one dominant party dictating policy was over.

However, as the events of yesterday reminded us, coalition governments do have a major downside.

By their very nature, they are unstable and susceptible to collapsing at the slightest provocation.

The fall of DA's Athol Trollip as the mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay Metro yesterday comes therefore as a little surprise as the alliance that brought him into power has been troubled for a while.

A similar development looks likely to take place in Tshwane on Thursday where both the EFF and the ANC will be pushing for a vote of no confidence in mayor Solly Msimanga.

Unless a last-minute deal between the EFF and the DA is reached over the next two days, Msimanga looks set to be on the opposition benches of the council soon.

If indeed SA is headed for a political phase where no single political party is able to win elections outright - hence being able to form a government on its own - we should brace ourselves for this kind of instability as a new normal.

It already is in most parts of western Europe. However, the question is whether it is suitable for developing economies like ours where political stability is key to attracting investments.

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