As coalition negotiations begin in earnest, City Press has learnt that the DA is frantically working towards keeping the ANC out of power in the key metros that delivered inconclusive results in this week’s local government election
The party, which came second in the major metros, wants to exclude the ANC from the governments of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
The DA has not yet engaged in formal deliberations with the ANC, but DA leader John Steenhuisen has said that a coalition with the government in Johannesburg or Tshwane is unlikely.
“We’ve had a few informal chats with the ANC at the results operation centre, but we’ll wait to hear whether it wants to talk to us. I’m not opposed to be talking to it, but it’s very unlikely that we’ll get into a coalition with it. I think we have a historic opportunity with the ANC being brought below 50% at local government level. I think our focus will be weakening the ANC. In places like Johannesburg and Tshwane, it will be very difficult to do a deal with the ANC because it’s the very architect of the reason those municipalities are doing so badly,” he said.
For its part, the ANC is toying with partnering with the EFF in eThekwini and Ekurhuleni, both of which saw a significant decline in ANC support. However, there is also a growing lobby to accept the losses and occupy the opposition benches in metros where the party was dragged well below the 50% mark.
‘NO’ TO MASHABA MAYORSHIP
Steenhuisen said the DA had ploughed most of its campaign funds into Nelson Mandela Bay and Johannesburg, in the hope that it would win outright majorities in those metros.
“It’s a heartbreaking result in Nelson Mandela Bay. We’ve come out as the biggest party, but forming a government will be very difficult. [However], we’ll talk to the smaller parties.
“The options are very limited because the big players aren’t represented in Nelson Mandela Bay. It’s one of the municipalities we’re looking at over the next few days along with Johannesburg and Tshwane,” said the DA leader.
The party’s preliminary talks have commenced with ActionSA, the Freedom Front Plus and the African Christian Democratic Party.
“We’ve had talks with the Freedom Front Plus about working together in municipalities in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng, and there’ll be a conclusion by Monday. I’d really like to take Tshwane and I think we have the numbers to do so. We’ll be talking to anybody who can make that happen,” he said.
Steenhuisen said that, just as it had been in Nelson Mandela Bay, the DA’s objective would be to keep the ANC out of office in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
“Again, though, it won’t be a coalition at any cost. We have to put together a coalition that’s able to last, otherwise we might as well be an excellent opposition,” he said.
However, Steenhuisen ruled out entering a deal that would see ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba emerge as the mayor of Johannesburg, a position that the “new kid on the block” has said it would insist on in any coalition talks.
“It would be very difficult, because he has half the numbers we do in Johannesburg. It would be very odd for us to make him the mayor when we have double the seats they do in Johannesburg.
“We can talk about mayoral committee positions and power-sharing. In an executive mayoral structure, especially, why would you – as the larger party – allow executive power to be taken by someone who has half the number of seats?” asked Steenhuisen.
However, the DA and ActionSA have begun talking.
Steenhuisen conceded that there was no “path to victory” in eThekwini, where – for the first time – the ANC fell to 42.2%, while the DA was at 25.2% and the EFF at 10.49%.
Steenhuisen said that because of the turbulence of the post-2016 coalitions, there would be a written agreement which set out the values and principles governing the partnerships.
ANC PONDERS ITS OPTIONS
The ANC, this election’s biggest loser, will have a chance to take stock of the electorate’s rebuke when its national executive committee (NEC) decides how best to approach coalition talks.
The governing party’s top brass graciously accepted the landslide electoral decline, but regional power-brokers may have different ideas when it comes to holding on to their local councils in areas where the party performed badly.
The meeting will consider a report from the committee headed by former minister and ANC veteran Jeff Radebe, who has been tasked with drawing up core principles that will inform the ANC’s approach to coalition talks. Among the considerations is whether there should be a minimum percentage threshold below which the party should simply accept its opposition status and stay out of any coalition.
Those supporting the proposal will argue that governing any council with anything around a 26% simple majority – which would mean the opposition has to deliver the remaining 25% in order to cross the 50%-plus mark – is political suicide, as the party will be hamstrung from implementing its manifesto promises, even if it is able to lead such a coalition government.
However, other voices will maintain that any majority on its own constitutes a popular vote, so the party should not shirk from performing its responsibilities, even with limited flexibility.https://www.youtube.com/embed/lRtvhdnZYKo?enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fwww.news24.com
“As long as you’re leading in that municipality by whatever margin, the fact remains that you’re leading. Whether it’s 15% or whatever, that’s okay,” said a senior leader.
Another contentious issue on the table is how to deal with ANC members who quit when they were unable to make the candidate list, ran as independent candidates and won. The party will have to acknowledge that where its candidate selection process failed, factions were able to manipulate the lists and exclude popular candidates.
Insiders say the party will have to consider those members who quit because they refused to be led by anyone else. The strong feeling in the party is that it would be hypocritical to enter into a coalition with people who defied the ANC’s rules simply in order to make up the numbers to get the party into local governments.
The NEC will deal with the vexed question of working with potential coalition partners who hold diametrically different positions, such as the DA’s stance on economic empowerment and the EFF’s “inflexible” approach on land expropriation without compensation.
An NEC member also noted that different factors might affect coalition decisions from province to province.
“For example, in Gauteng, we may look at talking to the IFP on its campaigning for the improvement of the housing conditions of hostel-dwellers. However, it’s also possible that, in KwaZulu-Natal, local dynamics preclude any form of cooperation with the IFP,” said the leader.
THE EFF’S NON-NEGOTIABLES
On Friday, the EFF announced a six-member coalition negotiation team led by its deputy president Floyd Shivambu, former chairperson Dali Mpofu, incumbent chairperson Veronica Mente, secretary-general Marshall Dlamini, Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi and former spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
The party’s non-negotiable pillars comprise service delivery commitments with timelines, particularly regarding land, jobs, water, electricity, flushing toilets and care for people with disabilities.
It also wants any partnership to allow it to govern exclusively in certain municipalities in exchange for others. Where this happens, there will be an agreement on oversight functions given to the coalition partner/s. It also wants non-interference from coalition partners in the appointment of municipal managers and all other senior managers.
THE DA’S BLUEPRINT FOR COALITIONS
In its draft agreement document for a coalition, which City Press has seen, the DA states that the parties with which it enters into a coalition will have to establish a joint caucus for the purposes of ensuring a coordinated response to issues that are brought before the municipal council.
The parties will have to elect a joint caucus chairperson and adopt a set of joint caucus rules in terms of which the group’s functions, decisions and rules must be endorsed by the management committee of the coalition.
The joint caucus will nominate and recommend a councillor for election to the position that is vacant, also with endorsement by the management committee.
“Members of the group must at all times adhere to and support decisions of the joint caucus and must not differ publicly from any decision once it has been taken, except when it has been decided by the joint caucus that a member may, on a question of conscience, exercise a free vote,” states the draft agreement document.
It commits joint caucus members to attending “meetings punctually and no member is excused from attending a joint caucus meeting, except by leave of the chairperson of the joint caucus”.
The party’s coalition partners are also expected to form a management committee group which will run the day-to-day administration and functions of the entity.
According to the document, the management committee will consist of the leader of every party’s caucus and other representatives to ensure parties are represented proportionally to their relative strength in that council.
Another group which will be formed is a coalition oversight group to monitor the health and strength of the relationship.