Coalitions require maturity – is SA grown up enough politically?

By Paul O’Sullivan*

The fiasco in Johannesburg serves to prove that South African politics is not yet mature enough to maintain a coalition.

When political parties with different agendas form a coalition to take power, the reality of either bribes or better positions being offered to so-called ‘kingmakers’ is looming over the heads of the majority in a coalition.

When coalitions are formed that include minority parties, run by people of low ethics, and there’s no shortage of such parties in SA, then a fragile coalition is doomed to failure, as soon as the unethical minority sees an opportunity to get their hands into the cookie jar.

Minority parties that are given high rank in city councils, for no other reason than their vote was crucial, is a red flag for bad governance and often leads to such minority members claiming, “It’s our time to eat.”

I remain convinced, as has been shown in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, that coalitions are a recipe for disaster and even more looting could be on the cards as a result. 2024 is not long from now and, unless the coalition rule book can be written and adopted quickly, there will be chaos in SA if a coalition government is in power.

A great example of corruption linked chaos is Italy. Since becoming a Republic in 1945, after World War II, Italy has had no fewer than 69 general elections and 69 coalition governments, resulting in elections every 1.1 years on average, with multiple periods where the country has been leaderless. As a result, Italy has one of the most corrupt governments in Europe, with roads, bridges and rail lines often ceasing to function, or collapsing. Service delivery in Italy is the lowest in Europe, because coalition governments result in too much red tape to get things done.

With the parties performing the way they are now in city coalitions, we can expect a repeat at provincial and national level, with the exception of Western Cape/Cape Town, where there is no coalition.

Interesting times ahead!

  • Paul O’Sullivan is the founder of Forensics for Justice.

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