/ 13 June 2024

South Africa needs a ‘no-alition’ confidence-and-supply arrangement for government stability

Voting 7745 Dv
An ANC volunteer gets ready to erect posters of party president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in Johannesburg, prior to South Africa's May 29 elections. (Delwyn Verasamy, Mail & Guardian)

When the British statistician George Box famously exclaimed that “all models are wrong, but some are useful” he meant to emphasise the importance of a pragmatic approach to solving complex problems. In other words, rather than attempting to find perfect answers that address every possible objection, we should instead attempt to generate practical solutions that can be fruitfully applied to real-world issues.

Last week, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) urged political parties to explore the possibility of what we label a “no-alition” confidence-and-supply arrangement as an alternative to a formal coalition. We believe that this presents the least risky approach to government over the next five years and better reflects the interests and will of voters who chose to elect a Parliament in which no party held a clear majority.

Under a “no-alition” arrangement the larger partner – in this case, the African National Congress (ANC) – would govern as a minority government. The ANC would be able to complete a full term in office secure in the knowledge that its cabinet can remain in place (confidence) and its annual budget will be adopted (supply).

Opposition parties on the other hand, would be able to retain their independence and serve their constituencies more directly on a case-by-case basis, without having to sacrifice their values to keep a potentially fractious and unstable coalition in place.

For the citizenry, it would mean that for the first time since the dawn of democracy the two primary functions of Parliament, namely the adoption of legislation as well as oversight of the execution thereof by the executive branch of government, can take place in an environment of genuine contestation without being hampered by the presence of an overriding majority participant.

We maintain that a “no-alition” arrangement is the best way forward for the country. However, we understand that political parties may, for various reasons, opt for some version of a formal coalition agreement. It would have been quite easy for us to simply reject these attempts by political leaders, we have instead developed our version of a “useful model” by outlining the five most important prerequisites which should serve as the foundation of any beneficial coalition agreement.


South Africa’s decline over the past three decades can largely be attributed to the over-centralisation of political power. Decentralising authority to provinces, municipalities, and communities is crucial. This shift would allow local entities to address their unique challenges independently, managing areas like policing, transport, and energy without central interference. The FMF’s Campaign for Home Rule supports this federalised approach.


State ownership dominates critical sectors like electricity, ports, and rail, causing inefficiencies and financial losses. To revitalise the economy, key state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Transnet, and PRASA must be privatised, wholly or partially. This move would improve performance, reduce the burden taxpayers to fund financial losses, and stimulate growth.

Labour market reforms

With an unemployment rate over 41%, South Africa needs urgent labour market reforms. Current labour regulations have locked millions of South Africans out of the formal employment market. The FMF advocates for the Job Seekers Exemption Certificate, allowing individuals to opt-out of rigid labour laws, thereby creating a more flexible and dynamic job market. Both prospective employees as well as employers would ultimately benefit from such an arrangement by expanding the range of employment opportunities for each of the parties.

Strengthen private property

Private property rights are fundamental to a free and prosperous society. Consequently, legislation undermining these rights, such as the Expropriation Act, the Land Court Act, and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), must be repealed. This would boost investor confidence by providing them with security of tenure and protect citizens’ property rights.


The National Health Insurance Act must be repealed, and the prohibition blocking private healthcare funders from offering low-cost benefit options must be unequivocally lifted. South Africans must have the freedom to manage their medical affairs. A focus on expanding access to the high-quality private healthcare system, rather than increasing state control, is essential for a robust health sector – especially when the woeful state of public healthcare can be largely attributed to the actions of various government actors.

These preconditions should be given legislative effect within the first month after Parliament’s first sitting on Friday, 14 June, to ensure the new administration is legally bound to grant the concessions. Given that this form of government inevitably entails significant risks – especially for its junior partners – it is essential that corresponding rewards are secured upfront.

Of course, it is true that we should remain cautious not to become overly optimistic regarding the significance of recent political developments. The loss of an outright majority for the ANC should not be considered a panacea which promises to alleviate all our political and economic woes. However, it would be equally naive to nihilistically dismiss the potential opportunities for promoting and expanding liberty and prosperity in South Africa which the current landscape presents.

If cooler heads are allowed to prevail and the process is properly managed, then the historic 29 May election can bring forth much of the reform which our society so desperately needs. Analysts, advocates and politicians must, therefore, treat the present moment with the requisite seriousness which it demands.

Regardless of the political machinations and their internal outcomes, it is crucial that the potential benefits afforded by the recent election be clearly outlined and firmly entrenched. Historically, one of the most effective (and useful) means to achieve such an outcome within coalition politics is to have meaningful, firm and enforceable prerequisites in place before entering a partnership.

Dr Morné Malan is the Communications Manager for the Free Market Foundation