Coalitions rarely work in SA

IEC officials discussing issues relating to this week's municipal elections at IEC offices in Pretoria.
IEC officials discussing issues relating to this week's municipal elections at IEC offices in Pretoria.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Do SA voters understand the significance of municipal elections? I don’t think so. Do they understand the importance of voting? I hope they do, but I doubt it. Otherwise, why do they stay away from voting?

The recent municipal elections have produced hung municipalities. Therefore, coalition governments will be the order of the day. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing. I hope the latter.

In addition, the so-called kingmakers will take centre stage. Often these are political parties that voters didn’t show much confidence in. Yet they will decide who governs a municipality or metro. Is that democratic?

In the past five years we had coalition governments in a few municipalities: Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane, Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Mogale City. This time around, they have increased. It looks like this type of government will be with us for years to come.

The pertinent question is: do coalition governments work? In SA, they don’t seem to work, given past experience.

Nelson Mandela Bay municipality was unstable from the word go. Initially it was under the DA-led coalition. Athol Trollip was mayor then. He was then booted out and the UDM's Mongameli Bobani became mayor. Not long after that the DA was back in power, with Nqaba Bhanga as mayor until the end of the term.

The Tshwane municipality, which was under the DA, was also chaotic. The municipality has had more than one mayor in five years. At some point it was under administration. The DA took the matter to court, won the case and came back to power. After five years, not much had been done as far as service delivery is concerned.

On the other hand, the Ekurhuleni municipality provided a good example of coalition government, despite  minor problems. The former executive mayor Mzwandile Masina (who is a candidate mayor) has even written a book on coalition government, using his municipality as a case study.

In conclusion, coalition governments don’t work in SA. They have proven that they are not about voters and service delivery but greedy political parties. If a solution is not found soon, local government will continue to fail to execute its mandate.

• Thabile Mange, Mogale City

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