Will DA, EFF side against a common enemy? Questions remain as coalition talks begin

The DA can still form a coalition with smaller parties in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane without the EFF, while the ANC can do the same with Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg without the red berets. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The DA can still form a coalition with smaller parties in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane without the EFF, while the ANC can do the same with Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg without the red berets. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Coalition talks will dominate politics over the next two weeks as political parties begin horse-trading in 26 municipalities and four key metros after they failed to produce an outright majority in last week’s local government elections.

The spotlight will be on Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Nelson Mandela Bay metros as the ANC and the Democratic Alliance try to woo smaller parties into coalition deals. Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters has emerged as kingmakers in a number of metros and municipalities, but the party finds itself in a tricky position. Malema has already indicated that it would be difficult to form a coalition government with the ANC because this would amount to bringing the party that was rejected by voters through the back door. EFF leaders could also face a backlash from supporters if they decide to go into a coalition with the DA, given that they are ideologically apart.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the EFF was more likely to enter into a coalition government with the DA because both parties have a common enemy in the ANC.

“While the EFF is close to the ANC in terms of policy, it sees the party as a sworn enemy.
It [the differences between the EFF and the ANC] has become personal,” said Fikeni. 

He said he did not see how the ANC could agree to the EFF’s demand to remove President Jacob Zuma from his position. This is one of the conditions it required for it enter into a coalition agreement with the ANC. The EFF, which met the ANC and the DA over the weekend, is also demanding the expropriation of land without compensation and for mines to be nationalised.

The DA is also reported to have rejected coalition talks with the ANC. It can still form a coalition with smaller parties in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane without the EFF, while the ANC can do the same in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg. But, the smaller parties may refuse to enter into a coalition with the ANC.

The DA and the ANC can still form minority governments if talks with smaller parties collapses.

A minority government is formed when no party receives more than 50% of the vote required to lead the council or government. The disadvantage with minority governments is the governing party would find it difficult to take major decisions such as the approval of budgets. Another disadvantage is opposition parties can easily pass a motion of no confidence against the mayor.

Ebrahim Fakir, the manager of Governance Institutions and Processes at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa, said political parties could base their agreement only on forming a government, but deal with other issues differently.

“Coalition governments are not binding legally. There is no guarantee that coalitions can work,” said Fakir.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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