/ 3 November 2021

ANC prepares for coalition talks — and is open to talking to ‘everybody’

Iec Results Operation Center
Coalitions open: The ANC's head of campaigns Fikile Mbalula (L), deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and treasurer Paul Mashatile. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC has opened the door to setting up coalition governments in municipalities in which it has failed to secure a majority. Coalitions will allow the party to govern when new councils are constituted in the coming weeks.

With a national overall vote of about 46% projected by the time the final results from Monday’s local government vote are announced on Thursday, the governing party faces hung councils in the majority of the country’s metro councils and in local and district municipalities that it formerly controlled.

Most crucial are Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and eThekwini — all of which registered ANC votes of less than the 50% and one seat that the party would need to govern.

The ANC said on Wednesday it would discuss which parties it was willing to enter into coalition agreements with at a meeting of its extended national working committee (NWC) at the weekend, together with the principles on which such agreements would be secured.

ANC acting secretary general Jessie Duarte told a media briefing at the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) results operations centre that the party had accepted that the result — and the low turnout — was a message from the electorate to “shape up.”

“The ANC has heard the message loud and clear,” Duarte said. The increase in the number of hung councils meant there was a need for coalition governments, or “other forms of co-operation”, she added.

She said there was “nothing new about’ in coalitions, which had been in operation since 1994 and were the means through which the ANC currently co-governed Johannesburg.

The party would approach coalitions “based on principles and not expediency” and would be taking the leading role in setting up such governments, because it was the party which had taken the largest slice of the vote, Duarte noted.

ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile said there needed to be an understanding that “we have to work within that environment”.

“Coalitions are a mess only if they start on the wrong footing. That is why we are carefully considering how we are going to go into it,” Mashatile said.

The ANC would agree on an approach and programmes with its coalition partners, he said, adding: ”From where we stand we will be able to work with those parties who agree with us.”

Whereas Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen has ruled out any coalition with the ANC, the governing party remained open to talking to “everybody.”

“Our door is open. We want to work with parties that want to put people first and prioritise service delivery,” Mashatile said.

Duarte said the ANC would not be negotiating from a position of weakness, and would not be prepared to work with parties with a “racist” agenda.

A team led by ANC policy head Jeff Radebe would analyse the results and make a detailed presentation to the NWC about in which municipalities coalitions or other forms of co-operation with other parties would be necessary, she said. The party would then develop a series of principles and guidelines for negotiations with other parties.

Duarte said, thus far,the ANC had held no formal discussions about coalitions with other parties.