South Africa


Malema the Must or Bust? ANC has (much) better options post-2024 elections

Malema the Must or Bust? ANC has (much) better options post-2024 elections
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC's 55th National Conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 16 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | EFF leader Julius Malema addresses the media on 23 March 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

With residents in many councils reaping the bitter fruits of poor governance stemming from badly run coalitions, many questions are asked about what a national coalition would look like after the 2024 elections. Many have suggested that if the ANC falls below 50% in the national elections, it would simply do a deal with the EFF. In fact, there are better options available to the party, which would leave it less exposed to the whims of a party dominated by the volatile leader of the Red Berets.

To start, it would be wiser for the ANC to create a larger coalition of parties instead, despite the possible drawbacks this may bring.

While it is impossible to predict what form a possible national coalition could take after next year’s polls, there are some elements which may be identified at this stage.

If, for example, the ANC does fall below 50%, it is likely that the party’s two main aims will be, first and foremost, to remain in power and, secondly, to find a way to do this without being vulnerable to the whims of just one party, or one person.

It is pretty much always unwise to put all one’s eggs in one basket, especially if that basket could at any given moment blow up in one’s face. Betting a party’s future on Julius Malema would be (catastrophically) unwise, even for a political organisation as distressed as the ANC finds itself these days. 

For the ANC’s strategists tasked with finding a way to another five years in power, it would be wiser to form a coalition it is actually capable of dominating – something of which it would have zero chance once Malema is allowed into the national government.

Instead of just having the EFF as partner to get them to just over 50%, should the ANC work with, say, five parties, it could reach 60%, a much more comfortable position to govern from.

Additionally, not a single, or even two parties, would be able to make big demands that could collapse the Cabinet and create a crisis.

The best way to implement this would be through Cabinet positions – each of the parties involved in a coalition would get at least one seat in Cabinet, the position of power the smaller players could never achieve through ballots.

There is a long history to this in our politics.

Currently, Good leader Patricia de Lille is the Minister of Tourism. Previously, the former leader of the National Freedom Party Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi was a Deputy Minister of Science and Technology. Famously, then IFP Leader Prince Mangosutho Buthelezi was Home Affairs Minister from 1994-2004, and then also sometimes Acting President of South Africa. (He also formally authorised the invasion of Lesotho, with the full backing of then President Nelson Mandela who was out of the country at the time.)

Differences over ideology have not been as big as one might think either.

New National Party’s leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk was SA’s Tourism Minister from 2004 to 2014. For a five-year period, from 2009 until 2014, the then leader of the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), Pieter Mulder, was the Deputy Minister of Agriculture. 

These examples demonstrate that issues around differing ideologies can be accommodated.

Also, while there may be people from several political parties in Cabinet, the overwhelming majority would still be from the ANC, giving it overall decision-making power.

Still, there are obvious limits to the claim that ideology will not matter.

It was after Mulder left Cabinet that the share of the vote received by the FF+ started to increase, which may suggest that some voters felt the FF+ had sold out by being in government.

Parties such as ActionSA have said they will never form a coalition with the ANC, creating another barrier, the height of which would be defined only by the electoral support the Herman Mashaba-led party will garner.

In these volatile times, the major issues we’re facing and even greater challenges that are coming our way could lead to huge disputes within the Cabinet. Imagine, for example, that the DA was part of such a coalition, and Russian President Vladimir Putin touches down in South Africa. Such an issue would make the DA’s stay in Cabinet exceedingly difficult.

That said, there may be ways of managing such disputes. And if there are enough parties represented in Cabinet, it may prevent any parties from trying to provoke a huge stand-off, or from threatening to withdraw their support.

The ANC will also have strong leverage thanks to the immense state patronage it can play with. As has been outlined previously, there is literally no limit to what the President can allow Ministers and Deputy Ministers under the Ministerial Handbook, even with an increased scrutiny that the issue has been subjected to over the years. It is not limited by legislation, but is merely in his power. Many a political leader may find the perks of being a minister or a deputy minister impossible to turn down.

After all, who can say no to both a free generator and free diesel these days?

In the short term, a proposal that parties representing different ideologies could work together would probably be welcomed by the majority of South Africans. It would prevent the chaos seen from collapsing coalitions in councils from infecting national government (and even provincial government, if handled correctly).

However, in the longer term it would also mean that coalition agreements in national government would be only about power. There would be no ideology at all. This would mean that people are working together only for power, with no agreement on the direction that should be taken to resolve our problems.

That would mean that our problems would possibly never be solved.

Of course, there are other political ramifications from such a coalition. One of them may be that it could be possible for the ANC to work with the DA, if it were part of a bigger coalition, rather than just a simple coalition. Of course, some other parties may refuse to join a coalition with the DA.

The same is true if such a coalition were to involve the EFF; some other parties may then refuse to join it.

This may mean that the best outcome for the ANC would actually be to use a larger group of small parties, perhaps up to five of them, each with one Cabinet seat, rather than any kind of coalition with the DA or the EFF. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Thabang M says:

    I agree with your analysis Stephen. I don’t see the likes of CR and Mantashe being dictated to by EFF. The ideal situation would be for the ANC-EFF coalition not reach 50% or as you wish the ANC invites others parties whereby not one is too powerful to collapse the coalition. This arrangement will take a sting out of the EFF, a person can tell they are already rubbing their hands on potential state power.

  • roland davies says:

    A promise of more social grants will win the next election for the ANC

  • Dee Bee says:

    The best outcome, of course, is for a coalition to be formed without either the ANC or EFF at all, but unfortunately, this isn’t likely.

  • Andre Cruywagen says:

    This election is going to be won by logistics. Short term “movement of rewards and maybe event voting bodies” will win this.
    Policies play a very little part in the decision making process of where and for who to vote of the mass vote in our country.
    Sad but true.

  • Rae Earl says:

    The danger of chaos after the 2024 election rests firmly on where the EFF turns up in any power sharing deals. An ANC/EFF coalition would be disastrous in light of Julius Malema’s constant flip-flopping between persons of choice. He will favour Ramaphosa initially and end up dominating him completely before switching to ministers like Gwede Mantashe and thus continue upsetting the balance of power in cabinet until he is in complete control. At that point SA will be doomed on every front. Land grabs will erupt, foreign investors will flee, corruption will escalate, and media freedom will be terminated. Julius Malema is cast in the same mould as Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe, as reckless as Amin and as ruthless as Mugabe. South Africa would have a great deal to fear if the ANC partners with Julius Malema. The man is a born dictator.

  • johanw773 says:

    Articles such as these, well written as they are, show the hopeless situation we find ourselves in.
    I am not in the least bit interested in which opposition parties may join the ANC in a coalition. All I know is that a governance system which does not have administrative mechanisms to prevent a bunch of gangsters holding a society to ransom, is fatally flawed.
    These scoundrels must get thrown into the gutter where they belong, but we know this will never happen.

    • PETER BAKER says:

      It will happen if we all make it happen. In the 70’s the Nationalist Party was predicted to be powerful enough to stay in power for 100’s of years! Nothing is forever: only death!

      • Glyn Morgan says:

        Right. Get positive about the DA and we could make an ANC/EFF coalition a loser. Those tiny parties are not to be trusted, will they go for free inverters or not?

    • Bill Gild says:

      Yes, the situation is indeed hopeless, and is(was) entirely foreseeable.
      So-called liberation movements have rarely evolved to responsible, credible governing entities; especially when tainted by communist ideology and dependence.
      Hopefully not within my lifetime, SA will devolve into warring (and largely tribally based) entities, resulting in chaos, bloodletting and near-total collapse of any kind of order.
      A cursory look at post-independence Africa provides the roadmap.

  • Andy Miles says:

    Endless reporting on political posturing has become tiring. We need focus on solutions to the root cause of our problems. The politicians have become too powerful. Whatever the current systems of checks and balances they have failed. Managing the mafia political realm Africa, coalition agreements etc, will not solve our problems. What we need is a “coalition agreement” of how much and what politicians control. We need to find common ground on what works to grow the economy, create jobs, have a moral environment, deliver services etc. Municipalities, SOE’s, Government Departments need to be repurposed where first priority is delivery, focus on managing output for benefit of all. A complete move away from the self-serving focus enabled under the present structures and controlling legislation. A space where the Constitution is not applied by political whim, but implemented by all without fear or favour. A space where the politically powerful cannot protect themselves by running rings around the legal system. (Fore example, implement Glenister 2, have a short-term court system to bring the bad to book). Given where we are, a utopian view, perhaps? My life experience is that the best outcomes are achieved by facing realties, not papering over the cracks. We need a smaller dramatically reshaped public sector coupled with a more direct system of citizenry intervention to hold political and public sector employees to account to ensure they do their jobs.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    An even better option would be for the ANC to fall below 35% – unlikely I know – but we can dream.

  • brooks spector says:

    a question that requires some serious thought is why coalition governments are stable and work well in some countries, while in others they become a recipe for instability and ineffectual (at best) governance?

    • Paddy Ross says:

      As I understand it, those countries that thrive with political coalitions have a significantly higher threshold for small political parties (e.g. Al Jamah, Good, PA, Cope etc.) to achieve representation in a municipality and/or Parliament. This threshold should be raised in South Africa asap.
      Message – stop voting for the ‘small fish’ who can be ‘bought’ by the ANC/EFF( nowadays essentially synonymous.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    I’m not optimistic. What we see in Johannesburg is parties keen to get/hold power at almost any cost. With the result that small parties, and especially the PA and Al Jama-ah, that have it in them to drive a hard bargain in a hung chamber, end up with influence that by far outweighs their appeal to the people of Johannesburg. A PA deputy mayor wreaked havoc in the two days he had his hands on the wheel, and if the bigger parties in the coalition cared they didn’t show it.

    The DA, too, were quite happy to reach an accomodation with first Al Jama-ah and then the PA despite the horror they now profess. OK… they would not have supported an Al Jama-ah Mayor, but still, that party has been quite clear about what it stands for, and it’s hard to see how they and the DA could ever have found much in common.

    Other, of course, than unseating the ANC, and it’s not clear that that was ever a priority for Al Jama-ah who now happily prop up the ANC.

    Coalitions need great commonality than denying power to a party perceived as the common enemy. Once that enemy is out of the way, the supposed allies will return their focus to their differences and will soon fall out with each other. This, in turn, drives the mentality of holding power at all costs. And that doesn’t serve the people well.

  • Sam Shu says:

    Much too rational and logical arguments. A bunch of the ANC (RET/Zuma faction) is already criminally aligned with the EFF in all but name. This will continue the paralysis after any election whatever the form of government.

    Some daily maverick authors have suggested mass peaceful protests such as has been seen in Israel making cities ungovernable. This is a big call in South Africa, especially the peaceful part, but no bigger than the expectation that some form of government will emerge from our next elections. As other comments, even in this thread have said, we need to mobilize the people to reshape the government. Yes, easier said than done but the flames are there, they need to be fanned and hope we dont get a conflagration

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    “After all, who can say no to both a free generator and free diesel these days?”
    The immorality of the above + I don’t know how many other benefits, show clearly who comes first on the list of the Government. They shouldn’t be allowed to decide on anything that favours themselves😠

  • Bob Dubery says:

    Question: Who started talking about an ANC & EFF coalition? ANC? EFF? DA? The press? Experts on twitter?

  • Amanda Hayes says:

    There really haven’t been significant policy differences between any of the parties for some time. And ideological “differences” don’t seem to make much impact on policy.

  • Riel Meynhardt says:

    “Many a political leader may find the perks of being a minister or a deputy minister impossible to turn down. After all, who can say no to both a free generator and free diesel these days?”
    How utterly morally bankrupt have we become as a society, when the above statement rings so true when discussing politicians and how they may act?

    The true dilemma is to find a way to get people to vote [against the ANC and EFF] who have simply decided that Democracy is a fraud and that it makes no sense to vote. The fact that so many voters simply have stopped voting due to their disgust with the way the ANC has run the country into the ground, instead of voting against them, is the barrier to effecting real change. If the opposition parties can not solve this issue, we can say goodbye to SA.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Please stop calling those people the “Red Berets”. It gives them some sort of sporty feel, which is unwarranted.

  • Christina Letanka says:

    Ramaphosa is not corrupt?The Phala Phala sales were just that, selling bulls but of course he should have banked the money?

  • Mpumi Bikitsha says:

    Reduce the salaries and take away the perks (what are they for?), then you are left with elected people whose intention is to serve and to serve only.

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