Ralph Mathekga

Ralph Mathekga | Municipal elections: going through the motions of a democratic ritual?

2020-03-03 10:17
IEC voting station. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

IEC voting station. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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The unfortunate part of the reality is that by the time the 2021 elections are held, the mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg would certainly have been in the job for less than two years, writes Ralph Mathekga

South Africans will be gearing toward another installment of local government elections in 2021.

It feels like it has not been that long since citizens voted in the highly contested 2016 local government that resulted in the ANC failing to secure outright majority to retain control of key metros - Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Nelson Mandela Bay.

Out of the four metropolitan municipalities where no political party attained an outright majority in the 2016 elections, only one - the City of Ekurhuleni - remains the only coalition municipality that is stable.  

The City of Tshwane is experiencing chaos since the DA mayor Stevens Mokgalapa was pushed to resign following a much publicised sex scandal.

Tshwane is currently without a mayor.

The ANC, the DA, and the EFF are locked in a fierce battle to take control of Tshwane.

The DA is refusing to accept the reality that the party will have to lose control of Tshwane in a similar manner that it lost Johannesburg to the ANC.   

The ANC regained control of Johannesburg by cobbling out a coalition which resulted in removing the DA-led coalition.

One cannot say Johannesburg is stable, given that the new mayor is hardly two months into the job since the last episode of a change of leadership in the council.

Therefore, both Tshwane and Johannesburg metros are experiencing unstable leadership with political parties permanently seeking to unseat any council at any point in time. 

When it comes to Ekurhuleni, smaller opposition parties have teamed up with the ANC to form a rather stable council led by the ANC.

The coalition in Ekurhuleni would most likely remain stable through to the end of the current political term which comes to an end in 2021. 

It is important to ask why the coalition in Ekurhuleni is rather more stable than Tshwane and Johannesburg respectively.

This is to try to tease out reasons why the coalition government in Tshwane and Johannesburg are prone to instabilities and periodic collapse.   

If there is anything that sets apart Ekurhuleni from Joburg and Tshwane is the absence of the EFF and the DA in the coalition.

Both the DA and the EFF were actively involved in the coalitions in Tshwane and Joburg where the ANC was not involved.

This means that one of the conditions for a coalition government to function and remain stable is that the coalition cannot involve more than one of the three main political parties at the same time.  

Therefore, any coalition that involve either two of the three big political parties (ANC, EFF, DA) will most likely collapse due to an inability of the three parties to compromise. 

It is possible that the coalition in Ekurhuleni survives because it involved only one of the three big parties, namely the ANC.

If either of the three parties are paired together in a coalition, a coalition runs the risk of becoming unstable.

This means that the Tshwane and Johannesburg metros will most likely face further instability in the run up to the 2021 elections.  

The unfortunate part of the reality is that by the time the 2021 elections are held, the mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg would certainly have been in the job for less than two years. 

For Tshwane and Johannesburg, the reality is that the current political term has been wasted on politicking among the three big political parties in the country.

The entire political term has been wasted on squabbles between the ANC, the DA, and the EFF.

This is worrying because there is hardly any party that will be taking responsibility for the mess that took place in Tshwane and Johannesburg, yet all parties will be asking to be elected to power in 2021.

The entire term of municipal governments since the 2016 elections has largely been a wasted opportunity to improve the lives of residents of these cities.

I ask myself, what then is the purpose of elections beyond merely being part of a democratic ritual?  

- Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.


Read more on:    tshwane  |  nelson mandela bay  |  ekurhuleni municipality  |  johannesburg  |  coalitions  |  politics  |  leadership  |  elections


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