The President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has called for transparency in the formulation of coalition agreements between political parties.
Bheki Stofile says in this way, the public will play a role in holding coalition partners accountable, and will act as a deterrent for political parties that violate coalition agreements.
Some municipalities have been riddled with instability as coalitions disintegrate. Experts have called for political maturity in ensuring the success of coalitions.
Coalition governments remain in the spotlight as the tug of war for municipalities continues.
With dwindling electoral support, it’s predicted that the outcomes of the 2024 general elections might not see an outright winner.
Last year, the ANC lost its grip on Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, leaving opposition parties to govern the metros.
However, the coalitions have not been without challenges. This was most evident in the DA-led, the City of Johannesburg that saw former Speaker, Vasco Da Gama, ousted through a vote of no confidence leaving the party seething.
Local Government expert, Tshepang Molale says “When one carefully looks at one motivating factor for why coalition agreements were reached at the last elections in municipalities, one might argue that opposition political parties were hellbent. They were united in a force looking at wanting to unseat the ANC instead of looking at how they can fortify and merge their differing political ideologies so that they can be more effective and more efficient at their take on governance. Which is why there is a current fallout at some metros in the country where certain councillors voting with other political parties to unseat municipal speakers, and municipal mayors. this is just one of the challenges that we have in coalition government.”
With coalitions, a reality at the local government level, the idea that this system of governance may ascend to national level, is gaining momentum.
However, with the African National Congress (ANC) predicted to dip below 50 percent in the national elections, the prospects of a successful multi-party government still appear bleak.
Political analyst Ongama Mtimka says, “Voters have lost confidence in the dominant party system and in fact in some instances have lost confidence in the political system itself. So politicians have got to make coalitions work, that’s where voters find themselves at the moment and it doesn’t look like this behaviour is going to change anytime soon to the extent that I expect coalitions to only be a start at a national level in 2024 and the transformations that are taking place in the political system might just crystallise only in the 2030s to either become a two-party state or in fact a multiparty democracy.”
Coalition agreements have no legal binding on the parties that enter into them and a party’s withdrawal may have ripple effects, leaving South Africans vulnerable.
Which begs the question: Does the country need a legal framework to guide coalition agreements?
Public Policy Expert, Mandla Isaacs says. “It’s largely a political matter, this is not a thing that you can legislate through law or through policy. In a PR system like ours, it actually tends to lend itself… The kind of one dominant party that we’ve had to date is actually not the norm when it comes to PR systems and you cannot have some kind of law that just guarantees it’ll function in a stable and coherent way. Ultimately it’s a political matter.”
With coalition governments now a common feature in the political landscape of the country, their success ultimately bodes well for South Africans and with just 19 months to the national elections time is fast running out for political parties to find each other.