Cape Town - Political powers were locked in meetings across the country on Monday to mull coalition pacts in municipalities where power hung in the balance after last week's municipal elections.
The Democratic Alliance was eyeing a broad agreement with Cope that would give it control of four additional municipalities in the Western Cape and three in the Northern Cape, said James Selfe, chairperson of the party's federal executive.
Speaking after a day-long meeting of the executive in Cape Town, he said the party would prefer to form an agreement with Cope at a national level, rather than enter into negotiations about individual councils.
"Ideally we would like a wider agreement," he said, but added that the DA had not yet had feedback from Cope about the smaller party's preferences.
Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter would only say that the party's working committee met on Monday, and its congress national committee would convene on Tuesday to "discuss the elections and the results and whether we want coalitions".
Dexter refused to comment on the likelihood of a deal with the DA, but confirmed that Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota had held talks with DA leader Helen Zille on the subject.
Lekota was quoted at the weekend as saying that comparing the DA's service delivery record to the ANC’s corruption record made the decision on who to side with easy for Cope.
This is bad news for the African National Congress, which is also looking to Cope to retain influence in the Western Cape after sustaining severe losses in the province, ceding control even of strongholds like Breede River and Saldanha Bay.
ANC Western Cape secretary Songeza Mjongile said his party was looking to form coalitions in 13 of the 30 municipalities in the province where the DA did not win more than 50% of seats.
"We are looking at forming coalitions in all 13 municipalities, we are not excluding any," Mjongile said.
"We will talk to all parties. We hope to know by Wednesday."
The ANC's national working committee met on Monday for a post-mortem of the elections that saw the party's national share of the vote dip to 62%.
Out of 30 municipalities in the Western Cape, the ANC only managed an outright win in Beaufort West.
Cope took 21 out of a total of 882 seats in the province. It got 2.1% of the vote nationally in its second election since it was formed out of a split in the ANC in 2008.
The DA increased its national share of votes to 23.9%, to a large extent by taking support away from small parties.
Selfe said the DA would steer clear of unstable coalitions with smaller parties that could compromise its ability to govern.
"We want to ensure ideological fit and make sure that we can govern coherently," he said.
The DA is especially anxious to form a governing coalition in the Western Cape's Bitou municipality, which party officials have described as an instance of "the worst ANC corruption".
The election produced a hung council and Cope, with one seat, would be kingmaker.
The Cape Times quoted the DA's Donald Grant as saying Cope would find "greater synergy and potential traction" with the DA than with the ANC, but talks could not be rushed.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the Inkatha Freedom Party said it would decide later on Monday whether to work with smaller parties in hung councils, while the National Freedom Party said it had been approached by the ANC for coalition talks.
NFP leader Zanele Magwaza-Msibi said her party would meet with ANC officials in Durban.
The May 18 vote resulted in 19 hung municipalities in the province.
By law, councils must be constituted within two weeks.