EFF dethrones the DA in coalitions while it leads a blindfolded ANC along, making a mockery of the will of the people.
South Africa remains a country proving an oyster tray for any interested public intellectuals. There is so much to opine on, from the drama at the State of Capture Commission to Theresa May’s whistle blow-stop, the ANC’s reneging on land reform as per its latest statement, the Constitutional Court pronouncing on culpability in the CPS and Sassa saga that cleared a Bathabile Dlamini, the Cape Flats police brutality in Bonteheuwel and the Nelson Mandela Metro’s dethroning of former mayor Trollip and replacing him with his arch-enemy Mongameli Bobani of the UDM. Claims of a resurgence of xenophobic violence in Soweto. This was followed by the Tshwane non-event and obvious egg on the face of an overconfident Kgosi Maepa of the ANC.
John Adams, the second USA president remarked on coalitions and democracy with the following words, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. Twas never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
The changing nature of our politics as evidence in an appetite for coalitions some claim is a sign of democratic maturity, while others see this era of political coalitions as utter expediency in which the will of the people in ballot definition is prostituted for veiled but glaring self-interest even at a personal level. South Africa is less than a year from its sixth national elections that will give effect to a sixth administration. Since the municipal elections of 2014, South Africa is increasingly proving a country ready for coalitions.
A coalition in political party sense attests a political alliance or an agreed political bloc for cooperation between different political parties on common political agenda, often for purposes of contesting an election to mutually benefit by collectively clearing election thresholds.
The SA psychology for coalitions is hardly a natural process but has a central player who above all else until very recently has defined the canvas of coalition politics in a democratic SA. The Democratic Alliance until recently stood unrivalled in its existence and daily life as anchored in the phenomenon of coalitions politics. For an elongated period, the DA singularly initiated and determined the political landscape of opposition party politics.
We saw how it swallowed Patricia De Lille’s ID party, we witnessed how its kiss with Mamphela Ramphele bludgeoned to death an AGANG-SA, it toyed with Lekota’s COPE and had flings with Holomisa’s UDM. It long bedded Meshoe’s ACDP and had flings with Buthelezi’s IFP. Can we forget how it’s chasing after Zwelinzima Vavi’s skirt was made public? This is a party that while it fails to live up to its first name (democratic) it excels in its last name (alliance), it rules by alliances where interest is the common factor.
It, therefore, becomes important to contextualise what happened this week against the backdrop of who the Democratic Alliance is in its governance of SA political nodes. What we are witnessing in this season is the fragility and glaring imploding, that many of us have opined over a longer period of time that showed this week when the last streaks of glue of its alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters tore and it could no longer rely on the Patriotic Alliance for that one significant vote that stymied the earlier plan of the EFF.
Not only did the DA lose the Nelson Mandela Metro mayoral seat but it also lost its leader status of coalitions, it was dethroned by a less sophisticated somehow uncouth, streetfighter bully small enough to be an annoyance and big enough to make you realise how small you are with your so-called numbers. The DA learns again today the truth of Napoleon Bonaparte’s words when he remarked, “The allies we gain by victory will turn against us upon the bare whisper of defeat”
It was clearly a week of political intrigue and drama. One that delivered jolts of tremors in the body-politick of South Africa’s leading political parties. We finally saw the much threatened and long promised removal of Nelson Mandela Metropole Mayor, the controversial vernacular-sassy Athol Trollip has his mayoral chain violently removed. The first salvo for this now historic event saw the DA speaker of the house Andre Lawack removed. Trollip was removed when a rebellious DA councillor decided it is time to pull the plug on him and the DA. Trollip and the DA were unceremoniously removed.
The DA’s entire campaign in parliament was in painting majority rule as a bad thing often using the northern state of Zimbabwe and its Zanu–PF as the evidence for this. The DA in its reinvention from its former Democratic Party, under Tony Leon whom Mandela dubbed a chihuahua, to its iron-guard Godzilla’s Democratic Alliance, had this idea as its central persuasion. You will recall how the DA in its practice of politics often sought to make democracy and political life determined by the courts.
The DA was always the master coalition partner and has had several intimate relations, one – night stands and weekend-spends with virtually every party that is defined in opposition sense. In 2016 it started flirting and casually dating the EFF, it’s most difficult so far.
The DA in 2016 first succeeded to smooth talk the young virgin of politics, who out of its anger for her parent the ANC was willing to defy every law and make agreements with the worst to insult its parent. The DA with this anger of a young lover, the EFF, was able to secure itself in two Gauteng metros.
Not that Gauteng in recent national elections ever delivered for the ANC outright power, it was always a borderline case of 50%-plus. The ANC in the province made a ton of blunders; can we ever forget the move to force Thoko Didiza into the race as an alternative when the race between two contenders was considered too violent. This move left the ANC exposed since its voters in Tshwane did not endorse the will of a boardroom Gauteng leadership and showed their dissatisfaction when the ANC failed to make the cut to define and form the local government of Tshwane.
While Trollip has been long on the radar for removal, Solly Msimanga in a comedy of recent appointments from people who claim education and expertise they simply never had soon stood accused of massive corruption for an issued tender that did not meet the necessary PFMA requirements. Msimanga was fingered by the EFF as the next one after Trollip to go. We knew that because the EFF’s leader had a press conference and spelt this out. They made it clear that Herman Mashaba, the City of Johannesburg Mayor, was not in any danger or under any threat of losing his job because, apparently, he is pliant to the objectives of the EFF. The noise around an intended Msimanga ouster gained intensity and momentum with the emergence of a new face in the ANC Tshwane leader Kgosi Maepa.
We learnt of a night-vigil to be held on Wednesday as the ANC in Tshwane was readying itself for taking over the mayoral office. Maepa’s social media world was a-flood with him making wild claims how he will be mayor come Thursday night. Well its Friday now, the mayor of Tshwane is still Solly Msimanga, after two motions sponsored respectively by the EFF and the ANC against him were disrupted abandoned after the EFF staged a walk-out.
Interesting enough, the EFF is so smart and self-centred and knows how eager the ANC is to occupy the mayoral seat that it staged a walk-out because their motion was procedurally questioned. To show you the EFF is not concerned about any of these political parties including the ANC, it didn’t want Msimanga removed on an ANC motion, it was never going to allow the lusty ANC to get that honour. It rather staged a walk-out to ensure the ANC’s motion fails regardless of whether the aim of removing Msimanga was the objective. The ANC had to abandon its motion because without the EFF it could never bring the motion to succeed
Coalition politics while a practised invention of the DA as matriarch is quickly becoming the playground of the much smaller in size EFF. The EFF has understood the greed of its fellow partners to hold office and uses that as a means to negotiate whatever it deems right for itself. The EFF has become the kingmaker for the DA and promised the same to the ANC; its best role is its practised king dethroner. Trollip was made by the EFF, similar to Msimanga and Mashaba. The EFF’s stance though glaringly obvious is interesting since they have managed to make a mockery of democracy because it better understands the heartbeat of a ruling party who has lost credibility and an essentially white-interest party that can snap out of the fundamental core of its interest.
The EFF plays their new type of coalition politics in a form of street-brawl style. It’s unconventional demand and threat strongman politics are informed by scaremongering as it claims it leads SA. Another aspect of the EFF, which many don’t see, is their dictate of who becomes the appropriate candidate. While it claims not to dictate choice, it essentially demands the right to veto the choice of partners for what it deems ‘clean’ or ‘proper’ candidates. This, in a nutshell, is telling your partner it’s your choice to select, it’s ours to veto your choice, therefore directing you in your choice because you not capable to present an honourable choice.
The ANC is very uncomfortable and not accustomed to coalition politics, it’s really a novice because it was spoiled for the better part of democracy to always secure an average of 62% of the national ballot.
It’s the first sign of dipping across the board was the 2016 municipal elections. It was now in stark reality faced with not a single outright win of any metro in Gauteng. It survives in Ekurhuleni, aided by the singular vote of the PA who keep Mzwandile Masina as mayor. Since the ANC is new to the notion of coalition politics it does not know how to play the game and swayed by its rudimentary interest of ruling it assumes it can negotiate itself back into a mayoral position because that has the same power of a ballot endorsement. If the ANC in both national and all metropole definitions can rightly pause and hear again Benjamin Franklin when he cautions, “Necessity never made a good bargain”
Clearly, SA’s leading party is at sixes and sevens on what coalitions mean and where that will play out, it has been sold the story that it will not make it to the psychological 60% threshold come 2019 hence it must now find the most appropriate partner to pull them over the bar. The ANC remains inept on the practice and ingredients of coalitions, it trails the mother of coalitions the DA, it equally falls behind the upstart street-brawler bully EFF.
Coalitions are essentially about a deal. It just appears the EFF gets better for its size from both the DA and ANC, who remains one stuck in sophistication and the other inept in negotiating the best deal for themselves.
Political Commentator and Writer