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