One of the least known facts is that an ANC-DA coalition once led the Beaufort West Local Municipality sometime in 2006. One Truman Prince, who was the municipal manager in that municipality had been expelled from the ANC and later fired by the municipality. He formed a party called Independent Civics Organisation of SA (ICOSA) which won an equal number of seats in the Beaufort West Local Municipality with the ANC in the 2006 Local Government Elections. Hence the ANC had to enter into the coalition with the DA, in order to run the municipality.
The coalition did not last very long. Through the floor-crossing legislation of the time, the ANC managed to regain a clear majority and run the municipality on its own.
The leaders of the ANC faction that is outside the ANC, commonly known as the EFF, are disinclined to using written speeches and statements, which makes it difficult to reference them. Piecing together sound bites from unwritten speeches they have made, and media interview answers they have given, it is not easy to tell where exactly they stand regarding the matter of coalitions. One day, they will never be in coalitions with the DA, or ANC. On another day, they are willing to have coalitions except with the ANC, and sometimes with anyone, including the ANC.
The argument which the President of the EFF, Julius Malema, seems to have consistently advanced at various platforms (e.g. The Gathering 2016), against the coalition with the ANC, is that if the ANC gets a lower majority in a municipality, it would undermine the people to return it to power through a coalition because, through the lowered majority, the people would have rejected.
That argument almost sounds sensible, until you consider that even though lowered, it would still be a majority nonetheless. Which means giving anyone else power, other than the party with the majority, would undermine the majority of the people more. One of our leaders calls it “anti-majoritarian liberal offensive.”
I have argued, elsewhere, why I think the coalition of between the DA and the EFF is inconceivable. But that’s just based on a consideration of policy approaches.
The most comprehensive set of sound bites an EFF leader has given on the matter of coalitions, was by its Secretary General, Godrich Gardee in an interview with the City Press in May this year. In it, Gardee introduces a concept they call “Coalitions of a Special Type” (CST). Old habits die hard, I tell you.
According to Gardee, the CST is a post-election arrangement where the EFF would be willing to use its share of seats to give another party power to run a municipality. Afterwards the EFF would be the opposition in that municipality. In exchange, that party would do the same for the EFF in another municipality where there would be no clear majority. The CST is a perfectly sensible tactic for an organisation of the EFF’s position.
It appears, though, that acceptance of the EFF’s 7 Cardinal Pillars would no longer be a major precondition for a coalition, as previously suggested in other sound bites of the EFF leaders (See 04 Feb 2016 media briefing). In the context of the CST that makes sense given that the EFF is not willing to co-govern, but wants to surrender all power and become opposition wherever they decide to be in a coalition. Using that logic, a coalition with the ANC should not be out of the question.
The main benefit the EFF intends to derive from its CST is to be given a municipality they would run with unfettered power, just as they would have surrendered the power for the other party in the other municipality. They intend to use the municipality they would run to demonstrate the workability of their governance approach.
One of the impressions I got in the current election campaign was that the EFF seemed less interested in winning a specific municipality, but they have used this period of campaigning to establish themselves and strengthen their presence across the length and breadth of the country. It appears to be a strategy firmly rooted in the future, particularly the 2019 General Elections.
Unlike the DA, and maybe the UDM. The DA has a greater focus on the Metros, where in their assessment, they imagine they would make better inroads, which unfortunately for them, is not going to happen. The UDM focused more in the Eastern Cape, particularly the Nelson Mandela Metro where they anticipate even if they do not win, they could hold enough percentage for a swinging vote.
The EFF was everywhere during the campaign, to the point that they might have spread their leadership to thin. That only makes sense in the context of preparing for 2019, to displace the DA as the biggest opposition party.
As such the EFF is likely to watch the aggregate results more closely rather than focus on specific municipal results. Since voter turnout is usually lower in local government elections than in national elections, their focus would be less on increasing the 1.1 million votes they got but more closing the gap between the DA’s 22% and it’s 6.4% in the 2014 National Elections.
Tactical as their move may have been, growing big comes with its challenges, which they will continuously learn, particularly relating to the management of internal democracy.
The ANC has the potential to be the biggest beneficiary of the EFF’s CST, if at all, due to the proportion of municipalities it leads. The EFF would simultaneously benefit in getting at least one municipality to prove the 24 hour clinic per ward idea that is in their manifesto, among other things.
Both the ANC, and the EFF, as its outside faction, would have to consider working together in the interest of the people, rather than focusing on spiting each other. They have more in common relative to other parties, when the mutual dislike among some of their leaders is discounted.
The answer on whether to coalesce or not, if it arises would be answered by the leaders of respective parties through either putting their egos first or putting the people first. Time will tell as results trickle in.