Deal-making on Cape Town’s future became reality early on Thursday evening as available results showed neither the African National Congress nor the Democratic Alliance emerging as outright winners. With less than five percent of the vote outstanding, the DA was leading with 42,45% over the African National Congress’s 37,3%.
The Independent Democrats now hold the key to the horse-trading — barely a week after Patricia de Lille promised her party would clinch 20% and hold the balance of power.
On Thursday, the ID claimed wins in Tafelsig and Eastridge in Mitchells Plain and lower middle-class Ottery. Several other wards in Mitchells Plain were within its reach, according to the ID’s analysis of exit polls. It has emerged neck-and-neck with the DA in many of the coloured suburbs, underscoring the DA’s fears that the ID would cut into its opposition vote.
The Independent Democrats had garnered 10,89% of the vote in the metro and the African Christian Democratic Party had 3,23%.
Independent candidates came in fifth with a combined 1,57%, followed by the African Muslim Party with 1,28%, the United Democratic Movement with 0,79%, the Freedom Front Plus 0,5%, the Pan Africanist Congress with 0,49% and the Inkatha Freedom Party with 0,15%.
A senior ID member said the only option was a change to the executive committee system under which political parties are represented according to polling strength. This would mean redistributing the power currently concentrated in the executive mayor’s hands.
A key party official told the Mail & Guardian that the party would put on the table “a global picture” — combining Cape Town with its strength as kingmaker in several rural councils like Stellenbosch, Swellendam, DrakenÂstein (Paarl) and Oudtshoorn.
While all parties were coy about their strategies, discussions were scheduled to start in earnest late on Thursday night or Friday morning — after final results are announced.
Despite a hard-fought campaign against the ID, the DA is ready to bite the bullet and work with it. It warned, however, that excluding the DA from any joint arrangements would deprive the new council of legitimacy. The African Christian Democratic Party is another option. The party has indicated it will also push for a council government reflecting parties’ strengths at the hustings.
The ANC will have less of a tricky choice as it would have no trouble with either the ID or ACDP. It is understood the party would not necessarily oppose an executive committee system, if it were in the interest of all Capetonians.
“We are open to taking forward the interests of our people … You’ll find us initiating the talks,” said ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha. He added that power-sharing decisions would be taken by the whole provincial leadership in consultation with the national office.
But even if a deal is struck, it could be short-lived because of the next floor-crossing period, due in 2008. Institute for Democracy in South Africa political researcher Jonathan Faull said the smaller political parties now faced the challenge of “political management” in a hung council. “Come floor-crossing time it’s open season on smaller parties, which have traditionally haemorrhaged disproportionately,” he cautioned.