The potholed and dangerous coalition roads ahead of the ANC’s stuttering electoral truck
Over the past week, there has been consistent reporting that the ANC is considering ending its working agreements with the EFF. As the relationship between these two parties is one of the most dominant political dynamics in SA, this is hugely significant. If the ANC follows through, it would weaken the EFF while also having a significant impact on the ANC.
Last week, Daily Maverick’s Queenin Masuabi broke the story that ANC National Executive Committee member David Makhura had given a presentation to the party’s leadership in which he recommended it cease working with the EFF. Part of his reasoning is that the EFF is using these agreements to win votes at the expense of the ANC.
In the same presentation, he also suggested that the ANC no longer work with the Patriotic Alliance because of its strong support for Israel, while the ruling party has a long history of solidarity with Palestine.
Makhura’s initiative has important implications.
First, the ANC has always been divided on the question of working with the EFF — it is one of the most divisive issues that the party faces.
Some, including Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, clearly believe there is much to be gained from the cooperation agreement. Lesufi, who is faced with the certain prospect of the ANC falling below 50% in the provincial elections next year, has to find a coalition partner. And working with the EFF provides a good foundation for him to remain premier next year.
However, many in the ANC see this differently.
In April, the ANC Veterans League suggested working with the EFF was bad for the ANC, and that working with the DA would be better in the longer term.
By May, the ANC and the EFF were making public claims about each other’s programmes relating to job opportunities that involved picking up litter.
In Ekurhuleni, where the two work together with a mayor from a minor party, the relationship has long been tense, with the ANC’s regional leadership pleading with the province to be allowed to end it.
Even ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula, who has had a long relationship with EFF leader Julius Malema, has suggested that it may be time to end the relationship.
Of course, Makhura’s analysis, that the EFF is using these power-sharing agreements to grow at the expense of the ANC is correct. It is only because of these agreements that the EFF’s Nkululeko Dunga and Mgcini Tshwaku have such high profiles.
Last week, Dunga was involved in a crash in which a motorcyclist was killed. The ANC caucus in Ekurhuleni claimed that he was being driven in a private car in a blue-light motorcade, and questioned why this was the case. News24 reported that he was being treated in a private hospital, which raises questions about the EFF’s commitment to living the same lives that most South Africans do.
Why would the members of a party dress in red uniforms designed to mimic the lives of their target voters and then use a private hospital?
Loss of key positions
The first consequence of an ANC decision to end the cooperation agreements could be that its members lose key positions, such as the MMC for finance in Joburg.
It would also enable the DA-dominated Multi-Party Charter parties to again form coalitions in the metros of Joburg and Ekurhuleni.
The immediate cost would be high, but in the longer term it could work out for the ANC, which may be able to regain power by blaming problems in these metros on the DA-led coalitions.
For the EFF, the consequences are greater.
Much of Malema’s assumed political power is based on the assumption that the EFF could be in a national coalition next year. If that prospect disappears from the table, then he and the EFF could end up with no real power, reduced to being a nuisance in the national Parliament, a skill at which they admittedly excel.
It would also show that Malema’s boast in Parliament, “I’m in charge, I’ve got you by the scrotum. There is nothing you can do, nothing, all of you combined,” is just another empty threat.
There is another important issue.
By ending its cooperation agreements with the EFF, the ANC would be showing that it will not work with, as Makhura said, a “proto-fascist” party that often opposes the Constitution — a Constitution that the ANC negotiated.
It would suggest the ANC would base future decisions about coalitions on whether a possible partner supports the Constitution — enabling the ANC to work with the DA, but never the EFF.
The Patriotic Alliance
Then there is the introduction of the issues around the Patriotic Alliance.
Here, Makhura says the fact this party strongly supports Israel means the ANC should not work with it.
The nature of the PA’s stated support for Israel, as its leader Gayton McKenzie put it to News 24 — “We would rather be out of power than be on the side of baby killers, shooters of innocent youth. Hamas is a terrorist organisation, period.” — suggests there is no room for negotiation on this issue.
The conflict between Palestine and Israel goes so deeply into elements of the identities of many South Africans that it is impossible to change minds, or sometimes even to discuss the issues calmly. Certainly, it is a very difficult issue for coalition partners who have taken different sides.
Were the ANC to refuse to work with the PA on this basis, it would be able to argue that it is doing so on a basis of principle, which could resonate with some voters.
ANC leaders will be thinking ahead to next year’s elections and for some, the short-term gains of working with the EFF and the PA may not be worth the longer-term risks.
The real issue in the ANC is not about who supports working with the EFF and who doesn’t, but what the better strategy is ahead of the elections — something on which the ANC is likely to base many of its decisions.
Our politics is going to be extremely volatile for the next few months, with much uncertainty about what will happen in some of the bigger metros.
And, despite all of the politicking, there is more chance of the All Blacks travelling back in time to win the World Cup final, than there is of the supply of water and electricity and the state of roads improving in the short term, together with the restoration of hope and the alleviation of poverty. DM