No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Sprinkles late. More clouds than sun. Cool.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE
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With election 2019 looming, it’s time again
for political parties to cover themselves in (in)glory in a fight to gain some
sort of competitive advantage in what is likely to be South Africa’s most
fractious vote to date.
In years gone by, it used to be
floor-crossing that shifted the political control in local councils and was
used not only to buy patronage but to embarrass political parties and sew
confusion in the minds of voters.
This year, instead of floor-crossing, it is
the vulnerable DA-led municipal authorities that are now in focus. And, given
the changing political winds in the post-Zuma South Africa, it’s the DA that
now bears the brunt of marriages of convenience with smaller political parties
but predominantly with the EFF.
Put simply, it’s simply not surprising the
agreements between the DA and EFF are now crumbling. Coalition-style agreements
should be concluded between parties with some synergy – be it values or
policy. Clearly, the DA and EFF had nothing in common from the outset. The two
parties could not be more diametrically opposite in every respect.
For the DA, the EFF was merely a conduit to
put their mayoral candidates in the pound seats of the showpiece Johannesburg and
Thswane metropoles thereby conferring on the official opposition the narrative
of a growing party controlling some of the largest and most important local
authorities in the country.
The second key pillar of the Tshwane and
Johannesburg agreements was an attempt to keep the EFF away from making deals
with the ANC and perhaps, returning to the mother ship. With Jacob Zuma as the
only common issue on which the DA and EFF could largely agree, the longevity of
the co-operation was always likely to be tested once Zuma was out of picture.
But of course, the new political dynamic of
the Ramaphosa era plays an important role changing these dynamics. For many in
the ANC, they rue the day that Julius Malema was excluded from the party of
Liberation. As this was largely due to the breakdown in relations between
Malema and Zuma, the demise of Zuma has motivated a large portion of the ANC to
call for a mechanism to restore longer-term co-operation or even re-unification
with the EFF.
With an ANC that has struggled to gain
electoral traction, there is increased pressure to find common ground with the
EFF. And, with a possible change to Section 25 of the Constitution to effect
expropriation without compensation, the ANC is clearly looking for greater
synergies with the EFF. These synergies have already born fruit in Nelson
Mandela Bay earlier this week with the dismissal of DA mayor Athol Trollip
albeit under dubious legal circumstances.
But for all of this Machiavellian
manoeuvring, the ultimate aim over the next few weeks will be to undermine the
ability of the DA to project a narrative of power, control and delivery. With
the election perhaps 10 months away, removing the prime mayoral chains from
Trollip (and perhaps Tshwane's Solly Msimanga) provides both the EFF and ANC
with similar benefits.
Both parties are therefore able to change
the narrative from DA power to DA decline. With a particularly competitive
election slated for Gauteng, keeping the negative narrative about Msimanga is
political game-playing par excellence.
And this is especially pertinent since Msimanga is the DA’s premier candidate
for the province come 2019.
With an accompanying storyline of
corruption, arrogance and associated racial invective broadly directed at the
DA, both the EFF and ANC find common ground in belittling the DA and
diminishing its growth prospects in Gauteng.
Both the ANC and EFF will seek to keep the
pressure on Msimanga with daily accusations of wrong-doing across a variety of
Despite severe denials from both the ANC
and EFF, their script increasingly looks as though it's co-ordinated between
the two parties perhaps pointing to synergies not only in strategy but in
public statements as well. Both parties want a weakened DA. Both have obvious historical
and emotional ties to the Liberation struggle. With a DA struggling to gain
traction, they smell blood. Both can gain electorally from a weakened DA.
But, for the ANC and EFF, their
co-operation also holds dangers. The DA can (and have) already conflated
support for the ANC with support for the EFF. They have also questioned the
process of no-confidence motions which itself – if illegal – can harm the credibility
of President Ramaphosa’s leadership and more rule-bound approach to governance.
Should these criticisms stick (and even be
upheld in our courts), the ANC will have to defend itself against this damaging
critique that a vote for the ANC is a vote for the EFF whilst the EFF will have
to increasingly differentiate themselves from the ANC.
And, should local governments be
destabilised as a result of the political shenanigans, voters will increasingly
become frustrated as election day advances.
Remember, incumbents are more likely to be
punished and a dysfunctional Nelson Mandela Bay or Tshwane can destroy the best
of the EFF and ANC’s plan. Similarly, endless attempts to unseat the DA equally
pose dangers to their ability to deliver over a more volatile pre-election
The messy events unfolding in Tshwane shows
that the EFF and ANC still have a long way to go to co-ordinate a successful
strategy. And the DA also hold some trump cards even if they are removed from
multiple leadership positions.
The only good news is that South Africa is
not alone in suffering the often intolerable games of its elected politicians.
From India to Italy to Israel, coalitions have come and gone leaving a bitter
taste of deceit and despair on all sides of the aisle. Ultimately, we are
seeing the effects of volatile coalition politics play out and this might well
become a new normal for the country – warts and all.
- Daniel Silke is director of the Political Futures Consultancy and is a noted keynote speaker and commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielSilke or visit his website.
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