South Africa

Special Report: Can Winnie broker an ANC-EFF coalition deal?

By Ranjeni Munusamy 5 August 2016

As control of the City of Johannesburg hung in the balance and with the Democratic Alliance (DA) claiming they would be the largest party in Tshwane, some ANC leaders were in intense discussions on Friday night about how they could keep control of the Gauteng metros. A coalition deal with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) appears to be the ANC’s only avenue to achieve this. Daily Maverick understands that some ANC leaders are considering roping in Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to convince EFF leader Julius Malema to make a deal with the ANC to retain control of the two Gauteng metros. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

On Thursday, when DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that his party had won the Nelson Mandela Bay metro based on their projections, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made an objection to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). At that point, the ANC still believed the DA was jumping the gun and hope lingered that the outstanding votes in the metro could swing the ANC’s way.

When Maimane called Tshwane on Friday evening, the ANC did not bother to object.

Although 20% of the results were still not in from the capital, the DA was confident they would emerge with the highest number of votes in Tshwane. The City of Johannesburg remained in a dead heat between the ANC and DA till late Friday night, but it was projected that the outstanding voting districts would put the ANC in the lead. But with the ANC growing increasingly worried that they would not have enough votes in Johannesburg, some leaders were considering approaching the EFF to discuss coalitions for the two cities.

With relations between the ANC and EFF so hostile, it was proposed that either a delegation of Gauteng leaders, who have not clashed with the EFF, or Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, approach Julius Malema to open discussions about coalitions in the metros. The ANC has not stated formally whether it would discuss coalitions with the DA or EFF. However, while the slow process of counting continued on Thursday and Friday, there was light-hearted banter between leaders of various political parties as they milled around the floor of the IEC results operation centre in Tshwane.

The DA has indicated it was not willing to go into a coalition agreement with the ANC as they believe people voted for change from ANC governance in these elections. EFF leaders have been sending mixed messages on the issue.

EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu said his party would “never go into coalition with the ANC” and where the ANC failed to get 50% they should “pack their bags and go”. Other EFF leaders suggested they would have preconditions for a coalition with other parties, which would include land distribution to the poor.

When Malema addressed a media briefing at the results centre on Friday, he initially said he did not want to delve into the issue of coalitions. However, he said that no party had yet approached the EFF to discuss co-operation. When pressed on the issue, he said it was “childish” to refuse to have discussions with any party, including the ANC. He also said there were options other than coalitions in hung councils, including re-runs of the elections in those areas if agreement could not be reached to form governments.

Daily Maverick understands that while the EFF is more amenable to co-operating with the DA, they want to keep the door open to hear the ANC out. But negotiating a deal between the ANC and EFF would be extremely difficult. Malema taunted the ANC at the media briefing saying they were happy the ANC had been “punished” and fell below 60% of the vote. He also remarked about the irony of the people who had “assaulted” them in Parliament now needing their assistance to keep control of the councils.

But ANC leaders know that while Malema remains resentful of the way he was kicked out of the ANC, his soft spot is Madikizela-Mandela. The EFF leader is deeply respectful of the veteran leader and has often said he derives inspiration and guidance from her. Earlier this year, he said Madikizela-Mandela had given her support to the EFF “to continue fighting for a better South Africa”. Madikizela-Mandela, who was at the ANC’s closing Siyanqoba rally on Sunday, had not been seen in public for some time prior due to ill health.

An EFF leader said they had anticipated that Madikizela-Mandela might be used as a trump card to persuade Malema to consider working with the ANC. But he said it would be a mistake to try to isolate Malema from the rest of the EFF leadership. He said there were hardened attitudes against the ANC in the party and that Madikizela-Mandela would not be able to change that. Another EFF leader said they had not announced their preconditions for coalition talks on Friday because that could be perceived by both the ANC and DA as them shutting the door to negotiations.

Attitudes in the ANC are equally hard against the EFF, particularly in the national leadership. The ANC in Gauteng, which now has to bear the consequences of the party’s bad performance in the province, has not been hostile to the EFF during its election campaign. It is not clear yet who will have to make the call to open discussions with opposition parties and what approach might eventually be taken.

The choice between having to ask for the EFF’s co-operation or surrendering control of Tshwane and Johannesburg will not be an easy one. DM

Photo: The then African National Congress  Youth League president (ANCYL) Julius Malema (R) shares a joke with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of South Africa’s first democratic president Nelson Mandela, during Malema’s appearance at the Johannesburg court for a hate speech trial April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko


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