Where to now for Metsimaholo?

2017-12-03 06:00

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The embattled Metsimaholo municipality is likely to head for a third try at the polls following this week’s by-elections, which failed to produce an outright winner.

Political parties have been left to numbers crunch, a process muddied by ideological straitjackets.

Results which were released on Friday evening – two days after the elections – confirmed that the municipality was in the same position it was after last year’s local government elections, with no outright winner.

This week the ANC secured 16 seats, the DA 11, the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) eight, SA Communist Party (SACP) three, while the Freedom Front Plus, Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD), Metsimaholo Community Association (MCA) and the African Independent Congress (AIC) all bagged one seat each. This week’s by-elections saw the SACP making good on their threat to go it alone, contesting their alliance partner the ANC, but the communists failed to win any wards. The party had planned to win at least three wards but instead ended up with nothing and only walked away with three proportional seats in the council.

The best outcome for the SACP would have been a coalition with the EFF, excluding the DA, whom they describe as a “class enemy”.

There were various scenarios that were at play and the one party that has a major headache on who it gives its vote to form a coalition government is the SACP.

The DA, EFF and Freedom Front Plus already have an existing working relationship in other metros, but put together the three only make up 20 seats in the Metsimaholo council. This means that a coalition would require a further two seats which would have to come from the three smaller parties.

The F4SD have a relationship with EFF in the north while the AIC saved the ANC from losing the Ekurhuleni metro in Gauteng during last year’s local government elections.

But it was unclear where the wind will blow in the Free State, given that the SACP has ruled out working with the DA and wants to avoid a coalition with its discredited longtime ally, the ANC.

Another scenario would be a situation where the SACP “betrays the community” and decides to work with the ANC to make up 19 seats. If that happens, they would require all three votes from the smaller parties who don’t have an agreement with the DA and EFF.

The SACP, for their part, have been adamant that they can’t vote with their alliance partner given how resentful the community had become towards the ruling party, this was the main reason which informed the SACP’s decision to contest independently.

SACP Free State general secretary Bheke Stofile said the party would have to head back to the community to get guidance on who to align themselves with in the council.

“The issue of coalitions is part of the discussions at the augmented central committee – sitting this weekend – because we went to elections while still in alliance with the ANC, the alliance has not ended. When you do door-to-door in Metsi they say ‘we hope we are not giving you votes to go and form a coalition with the ANC like what the MCA did’,” Stofile said.

The SACP has chalked up their failure in the elections to their last-minute decision to contest, leaving the party with just two weeks to campaign. Stofile believes that a re-run would allow more time to campaign, resulting in a more favourable outcome.

“If either group that is negotiating doesn’t get support from the communist party and three more seats from the other small parties then it means you are going to re-run.

“According to IEC rules, they will be given time to go assemble a council in 14 days. In that assembled council, two important processes have to follow: the election of speaker and the mayor. Failure to do that in that council, you are given a notice of another council and have opportunity to negotiate among yourselves and if it fails again, then you ultimately have a hung municipality.”

DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane told City Press said that the smaller parties posed a challenge to the stability of coalitions in the municipality.

“It is clear that no one can govern there without a coalition, our experience is that the smaller parties are easily bought by the ANC,” Kopane said.

The municipality was collapsed when MCA Mayor Sello Hlasa defected to the ANC, resulting in this week’s by-election.

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