Drop egos and think of the poor

Eff leader Jullius Malema and DA leader Mmusi Maimane during rosier times.
Eff leader Jullius Malema and DA leader Mmusi Maimane during rosier times.
Image: Abigail Javier

The ongoing spat between the EFF and DA that is threatening the collapse of two metro council is a great reminder of the main pitfall of coalition governments.

It had become fashionable among mainstream commentators and political scientists to talk up the formation of coalitions as a solution to one-party dominance of the political system.

They would point to numerous European countries where no political party wins an outright majority and the formation of government is dependent on horse-trading between parties.

This, they argue, guarantees accountability as no party is big enough to afford ignoring the swing in the public mood.

While ruling through coalitions does help put into check the kind of arrogance we saw, for example, with the ANC as it defended and protected the bumbling Jacob Zuma presidency, it can also lead to instability if such coalition governments are not based on sound principles and shared values, but on political expediency.

The formation of DA-led coalition governments in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Johannesburg and Tshwane following the 2016 elections were without doubt a major political game changer in our country.

They signaled that our democracy was now maturing to the point where the electorate was ready to use the vote to register its displeasure with those in power - in this case the ANC.

But instead of using these newly won councils to show voters what an alternative form of government can achieve, the coalition partners mostly squandered the opportunity through in-fighting. Soon, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Bay mayor Atholl Trolip was voted out by coalition partners.

Now the futures of the Johannesburg and Tshwane mayors are in jeopardy with the EFF announcing that it will no longer back the DA after Mmusi Maimane's party refused to give-in to Julius Malema's demand that an EFF deployee be made Tshwane mayor.

What is most worrying is that the EFF says it will no longer be voting with the DA in any of the hung councils, sparking fears that they would not be able to pass budgets and take important decisions in future.

If this threat comes to pass, it is the residents, especially the poor, that will suffer the most.

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