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OpEds

Elections bring uncertainty but opportunity

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At the South African Jewish Board of Deputies election debate a fortnight before the polls, the Patriotic Alliance’s Kenny Kunene, deadpan, told the audience that he had been to Israel to learn about how coalitions work. Of course, there are places where coalitions do work – like Germany – and places where coalitions don’t work. Like Israel.

South Africa is now faced with the reality of having to navigate this new political landscape of negotiating coalitions at national level. Negotiating teams have been appointed and this week, meetings are taking place between representatives of parties who were able to win seats in government. There’s an enormous amount at stake, and the country is in flux as our future is being determined.

Some parties have gone into these talks stronger or weaker than anticipated, depending on their respective election results. The key narratives of these elections have been the implosion of the African National Congress (ANC), the surprising success of former President Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, and the arrival of the Patriotic Alliance as a potential kingmaker.

The ANC effectively lost eighteen percentage points in these polls. That’s a massive knock. Over the past two decades, the ANC in government has been responsible for economic decline, depressed growth, huge unemployment, infrastructure collapse, impaired service delivery, state capture, and widespread tender corruption. Voters had enough. What also became evident was that the electorate didn’t seem too swayed by the ANC’s support of Gaza at the International Court of Justice, in fact it seems to have cost the party support. But what really dented the ANC ultimately was the success of its former leader, Jacob Zuma, who bizarrely remains a member of the ANC.

Why was Zuma and MK so successful? MK is now the third largest party in South Africa, with 14.58% of the national vote and 58 seats in the National Assembly. In KwaZulu-Natal, MK emerged as the most popular party with an astonishing 46% of the votes.

After the “nine wasted years”, the Guptaleaks, state capture, the arms deal corruption, the destruction of state-owned entities, and infrastructure collapse, why would nearly two and a half million South Africans vote for Jacob Zuma?

Is it as simple as tribalism or ethnicity as some analysts have suggested? Zuma is MK and MK is Zuma. Zuma is a Trumpian figure in our politics, and this is a case of identity politics. The ongoing court cases against Zuma have cast him as a victim of the ANC and the political establishment. His populist appeal resonated with voters.

This is also protest politics. MK supporters felt neglected and isolated by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. If MK supporters actually read the party’s manifesto, I doubt they would vote in support of its policies, which include replacing the Constitution; holding a referendum on the death penalty; nationalising everything; and reversing reforms.

The ANC is now at a watershed moment. It effectively has to make a choice between constitutional democracy and anarchy. This week is monumental in determining which path the country takes. It’s terrifying but it’s also exciting. There’s so much opportunity and promise.

According to the Constitution, the first sitting of the National Assembly must take place 14 days after the results are declared. There are several potential scenarios that could emerge from the negotiations with multiple permutations.

Investors, economists, and citizens like you and I are watching developments closely.

It’s possible that deals could be done that have an impact at provincial and national level. Provinces like KwaZulu-Natal or Gauteng could be used as bargaining chips at national level – a premiership in exchange for support in the National Assembly as an example.

Among the more spoken-about scenarios that have emerged are:

  • A GNU – government of national unity that would include all parties in government;
  • ANC plus Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) plus the Patriotic Alliance (or Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)) or ANC plus MK;
  • A centrist coalition between the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA), and the IFP, with all parties in government;
  • The super opposition – ANC plus DA plus IFP, but parties remain in opposition; or
  • ANC becomes minority government without coalition partners.

What the most likely scenario is at this point is the ANC doing a deal with the DA and the IFP, but these parties stay “outside” of government in what is being called a confidence/supply agreement.

The ANC retains control of the executive in a minority government, and the DA and IFP take on positions of oversight in Parliament including speaker and chairpersons of portfolio committees. Helen Zille calls this the “super opposition scenario”. The DA and IFP would support the ANC against votes of no confidence, and with the passing of budgets.

However, there’s always the possibility that the faction within the ANC that prefers a coalition with MK or EFF wins out. Economists warn that this would have a considerable impact on investor confidence and the rand will tank as it will signal the reversal of reforms.

It’s now up to our elected political leaders to negotiate on our behalf and in the interests of the country. This requires political maturity. There’s the potential that coalitions will fail as they have in the City of Johannesburg and in Israel. But there’s also the potential for politicians to chart a new way forward. We’re witnessing history. Anything could happen.

  • Mandy Wiener is a broadcaster and author.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. rafaelli

    Jun 7, 2024 at 10:47 am

    This is Chai FM radio bringing you the news:

    3 gnus went down to the watering hole for a sundowner, Mama Papa and bay
    Sleeking up to them a krokodil (baie groot) grabbed the baby for supper and into the depths to consume

    The following evening our parents were thirsty and not having learned or said kaddish for the little wilde chaya, were again horrified as the same krokodil grabbed the mother gnu and dragged her into the murky depths.

    Then came father next morning ,mourning his family only also to be grabbed and taken to the depths.by our voracious krokodil.

    That is the end of the gnus.

    So who will be our next cabinet???

    We put all candidates just back from celebrating their defeats in all parties into a box labelled on square pieces.
    The different portfolios were star shaped and labelled.

    So blindly he put his hand into the box matching 2 pieces until he had matched squares and stars in a blind fashion and guess what:

    Naledi Pandor emerged as minister of finance since she is smiling all the way to the bank these days
    Gigaba came out as minister of alternative energy planning
    Mkhize came out as minister of digitally approved vibraphones.
    Mr Steenhuizen was matched to our new embassy in Ramallah
    Mr Vavi will be minister of cooperation integration and consensus building with JSE capitalists.
    Angie motshega will be minister of lower education.
    Mr Zuma will be elected as minister of law and order. and the introduction of music and dance in universities.
    Mr Malema will become head of roadworks and infrastructure.and responsible for painting the towns red

    Mr Mantashe will be our new minister of education having just completed a course on photovoltaic energy

    Minister of health? Oops one star too many. Wouldn’t make any difference anyway.

    President Ramaphosa will retain the portfolio on wild animal and wildechaya resources.

    Mr ganif hendricks of the Al Jamahaha party will be our new minister of international affairs and harwala transactions. Rewarded for his attmpt to throw the Western Cape results.

    Mr Malema
    So the Pres

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