/ 27 May 2011

Win friends and influence others

The Democratic Alliance will not court trouble by entering coalitions with problematic parties merely to win control over two small municipalities in the Western Cape, the party’s federal chairperson, James Selfe, said this week.

The DA’s stance contrasted with that of the ANC, which announced that it had signed coalition agreements with the often controversial Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa (Icosa) to retain power in the two municipalities.

Municipalities have until June 2 to constitute councils and a scramble to form coalition governments is now taking place behind the scenes, especially in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Although negotiations are continuing, the DA has decided it will not enter into negotiations with swing parties in two hung Western Cape municipalities, Kannaland (Ladismith) and Oudtshoorn.

“We’re not willing to go into negotiations with Icosa — that’s looking for trouble,” said Selfe.

Icosa is run by incumbent Kannaland mayor Jeffrey Donson, who formerly led the National People’s Party (NPP). In 2008 Donson was convicted on six counts of statutory rape and one of indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl. Donson said this week that the mayoral position in Kannaland would be held by an Icosa member, but would not say whether he would retain the position. In Oudtshoorn the ANC and DA each holds 11 seats, whereas Icosa and the NPP have one each.

As results of the local government elections streamed in it became increasingly obvious that this election was becoming a war between the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance. The Mail & Guardian asked smaller parties what they thought about the possibility of coalitions and if they thought South Africa was becoming a two-party state.

In Beaufort West the ANC won the municipality, where they had put controversial former mayor Truman Prince on its proportional representation (PR) list in a move to ensure voter support. Prince, who has an enormous following in the drought-stricken town, managed to bounce back from a 2005 exposé about his relationship with minor girls and his arrest for drunk driving in 2010.

A senior ANC leader, who asked not to be named, told the Mail & Guardian that the ANC was aware of Prince’s problematic past and acknowledged that he could pose a problem. “That’s why we put him on the PR list and not the ward list. If he messes up we can get rid of him without ­having a by-election,” the ANC leader said. According to reports, speculation is rife that Prince may be appointed mayor of Beaufort West.

The Congress of the People (Cope) has decided that it will join forces with the DA, rather than the ANC, in councils where it holds the swing vote. These include Witzenburg (Ceres), Langeberg (Robertson), Laingsburg, Bitou (Plettenberg Bay), Hessequa (Riversdale), Nama-Khoi (Springbok) and Karoo-Hoogland (De Aar).

At a meeting on Tuesday Cope’s national leaders voted overwhelmingly in favour of coalition with the DA, with 14 votes in favour, four in favour of teaming up with the ANC and one abstention by the party’s spokesperson, Philip Dexter. “The decision was that, in line with our principles, we cannot go into a coalition with the ANC,” said a Cope insider who asked to remain anonymous.

Selfe said working with Cope at municipal level would create a favourable environment for cooperation in other spheres of government and ultimately fulfil the DA’s hope of consolidating the opposition to present a united front against the ANC at the next elections.

In Swellendam the DA will take control in a coalition with the African Christian Democratic Party and in Matzikama (Klawer and Vredendal) it will team up with the New Generation Party. The NGP is run by John Bock, a former DA member who did not make it on to the party’s list in the area.

In the hamlet of Prince Albert the Karoo Gemeenskap Party (KGP) has a tough road ahead of it. The DA’s Western Cape leader, Theuns Botha, pointed out that the party was the largest in the municipality but would not have an overall majority in the council.

It has three seats, whereas the ANC and the DA have two each. Botha said the DA had taken a “principled decision” not to align itself with either the ANC or the KGP in this municipality.

“We are placing them in a minority government and we will see what they can do alone,” he said.

But he argued that if the municipality was not run properly, the DA would consider working with the ANC to remove the KGP from power. This could entail placing the municipality under administration, or lead to fresh elections. In that case the DA could join forces with the ANC in a coalition. The DA will wait for six months “to see how it goes”, Botha said.

But for the time being the people of Prince Albert have elected the KGP and it should be left to govern, he said. — Additional reporting by Lynley Donnelly

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