/ 19 January 2017

New coalition governments to be put to the test

Discussions have already begun between the EFF and the DA in Johannesburg. The red berets say they have made their non-negotiable budget items known.
Discussions have already begun between the EFF and the DA in Johannesburg. The red berets say they have made their non-negotiable budget items known.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) say they are pushing a pro-poor budget in the Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay metros where their support put the Democratic Alliance (DA) in power.

For the first time since the August elections, the effectiveness of coalition governments will be tested as partners in several municipalities finalise their 2017/2018 financial year budgets in the coming few weeks.

Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay metros — lost by the ANC in the elections — have a combined budget of about ­R65-billion, with Johannesburg the larger at R54.8-billion.

So far councils have been operating on inherited budgets decided on by previous administrations. Now the coalition partners will have to compile their own budgets, which could prove to be a delicate task in a situation where parties with different ideological stances are responsible for providing services.

In Johannesburg, DA mayor Herman Mashaba has already said the party will not allocate a budget to the bicycle lane initiative after the EFF demanded that it be cancelled.

The ANC’s greatest election blow was the loss of the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay metros to the DA, which secured a slim majority with the support of parties such as the EFF, the UDM and the Congress of the People (Cope).

Political analysts raised concerns about metros’ ability to deliver services, flagging Tshwane and Johannesburg as potential minefields.

Although the EFF gave its vote to the DA, the two parties did not form a coalition because of their ideological differences, which include the expropriation of land and the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy.

When the EFF helped the DA into power it insisted it would exert its authority through municipal budgets to ensure elements of its pro-poor policy, such as quality housing, electrification, water and sanitation, were implemented.

Discussions have already begun between the EFF and the DA in Johannesburg. The red berets say they have made their non-negotiable budget items known.

“As the EFF we have been continuously communicating with the DA and its coalition partners, making clear what we think is non-negotiable on many instances,” said EFF Johannesburg councillor Musa Novela.

“Electrification, running water and sanitation; these are not issues that are up for negotiation.”

Mashaba said common ground had so far been maintained between the DA-led coalition and the EFF. “We are running a coalition government and we can’t do anything without the approval of other parties because the people voted for this,” Mashaba said.

The EFF’s insistence that vacant land be expropriated for housing purposes could prove to be a barrier in its talks with the DA.

Should the parties fail to agree on budgets and other administrative issues, they run the risk of a hamstrung municipality and, ultimately, having it placed under administration.

But the DA said the party and the EFF were committed to effective service delivery, rooting out corruption and creating jobs, which gives them more areas of commonality than most people realised.

DA federal chairperson James Selfe said the party was aware of the risk of a deadlock in deliberations and measures were in place to ensure disagreements could be solved without the need for stringent intervention by the co-operative governance department.

“We will try to arrive at an agreement locally, or if we can’t, identify the issues on which there is disagreement and try to mediate locally. If that fails there are procedures in place and an understanding with the EFF to escalate issues to a national level,” he said.

In Tshwane, the EFF said its budgetary priorities were still being finalised.

In the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, the DA’s coalition partner, the UDM, said it wanted to see an increase in the amount of money allocated to housing, electricity and the provision of other services in townships.

“There is no chance that those priority issues will not be accepted by the DA because the DA was voted into power not by whites only but by black people too. We owe those people big time,” said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

Holomisa said the UDM had noticed a tendency with the DA to provide better services to already advantaged areas, and would ensure this didn’t happen in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“The budget must stay the way it is — where lots of money was earmarked to change townships. What we notice is that a lot of money is given in Cape Town [under DA leadership] but still skewed in favour of the advantaged.”

The parties’ wishlists

UDM (Nelson Mandela Bay)

  • Housing
  • Running water and sanitation
  • Electricity to all houses
  • Refuse collection services
  • Tourism for job creation
  • Cut fraud and corruption

DA (Nelson Mandela Bay)

  • Provide housing and title deeds
  • Quality public health services
  • Cut fraud and corruption
  • Improve roads and transport
  • Engineering and infrastructure development
  • Tourism for economic development

EFF (Johannesburg)

  • Quality housing
  • Running tap water
  • Access to sanitation services
  • Electrify all homes
  • Acquire vacant land for housing
  • Infrastructure development
  • Job creation

DA (Johannesburg)

  • Increase housing delivery
  • Acquire buildings for housing
  • Service delivery to poor
  • Inner city regeneration
  • Public safety and policing
  • Forensic investigation for corruption
  • Fight water shortages
  • Build smart city through ICT