FRIDAY BRIEFING | Carving up our cities: Will our politicians be adults about building coalitions?

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Carving up our cities: Will the politicians be adults about it when building coalitions?

South Africa's political landscape was fundamentally altered after the last municipal elections – in 2016 – when the ANC were rejected by voters in Johannesburg as well as the metropolitan municipalities of Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. However, no one party garnered enough votes for a majority, and parties were forced to negotiate coalitions, which saw mortal political enemies forced into compromise.

Five years later, all three cities have become used to unstable municipalities, blocked budgets, and poor service delivery.

The ANC, DA, EFF and others have over the years been unable to hammer out agreements to enable good long-term governance, with parties reverting to type and jettisoning their civic responsibilities. In the intervening period, there isn't a lot to suggest that this time around, either one of the big parties will be able to secure that 50% plus one majority, which means that coalition politics will become an even more entrenched feature of our politics.

But have political parties learnt about coalitions over the last five years?

Will they be able to put the interests of citizens ahead of their own political gains? The ANC has struggled to adapt to the role of the opposition, the DA were unable to transplant their success in Cape Town coalition-building elsewhere, while the EFF simply do not look interested in anything resembling good governance. Voters see this, and it fuels their apathy.

Mike Law, a political analyst who helped convene a study tour to Germany for political parties to investigate how coalitions work, writes our anchor piece this week and considers the different permutations that ratepayers can look forward to. And he argues that a "grand coalition" between the ANC and DA might just be beneficial to South Africa's democracy.

Besides Mike's piece, we have in-depth contributions from the University of Johannesburg's Mcebisi Ndletyana, who examines what happened in Nelson Mandela Bay over the past five years while Unisa's Dirk Kotze analyses the goings-on in Pretoria and what the future holds for a coalition government there. We also have an extract of a chapter written by the University of Pretoria's Bonolo Makgale, published in 'Marriage of Inconvenience', which was edited by Susan Booysen.  

Have a good weekend!

Pieter du Toit 

Assistant Editor: In-depth news

Slicing the coalition cake: Leaders must raise their game

With none of the three big political parties - the ANC, DA and the EFF - in form, coalitions seem a more likely factor after the 1 November election. Political analyst Mike Law examines what the likely scenarios could be and whether we will see a repeat of the last five shambolic years in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. 

Nelson Mandela Bay's coalition nightmare: More stability needed next time round

University of Johannesburg professor Mcebisi Ndletyana delves into what went wrong in Nelson Mandela Bay over the last five years, and considers what needs to be done to ensure a future coalition works in the city after the elections on 1 November.

More coalition politics on the table for Tshwane but will it be without controversy?

The core elements of the instability in Tshwane in the last five years were that the DA/EFF relationship collapsed, the ANC and EFF could not find each other and the DA and ANC did not have the imagination to talk with each other. Unisa professor Dirk Kotzé examines just how sustainable another coalition government will be in Tshwane, as there is unlikely to be an outright winner in the city. 

Power, politics and ideology: Understanding the tug of war in Johannesburg

The University of Pretoria's Bonolo Makgale in a chapter in 'Marriage of Inconvenience' details research conducted at the City of Johannesburg. Makgale conducted semi-structured interviews with seven councilors, two City of Johannesburg officials and one senior ANC official in an effort to shed light on how the coalition formed after the 2016 municipal election navigated challenges in the city and how the EFF's agenda, along with the ANC' determination to return to power in the city, led to the demise of the DA-led coaltion. Here is an extract from Makgale's chapter.

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