BNC#6: Frans Cronje Q&A – Embracing SA’s inevitable coalition future

During his Q&A session at BNC#6 in Hermanus, Frans Cronje discussed the shifting landscape of South African politics, emphasising the inevitability of coalition governance. He highlighted the decline of ANC dominance, suggesting a future where no single party holds executive control. Cronje underscored the importance of private actors navigating this transition for societal progress. Despite concerns, he believes in the resilience of institutions against worst-case scenarios, advocating for policies fostering economic growth and certainty to unlock business investment.

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Summary of the Question and Answer session with Frans Cronje at BNC#6 in Hermanus

In a nuanced discussion between Alec Hogg and Frans Cronje at the BNC#6 in Hermanus, the future of South African politics and governance is dissected. Cronje contends that the traditional dominance of major political parties like the ANC and DA is fading, paving the way for a fragmented political landscape. He suggests that coalitions will become the norm, with no single party holding executive control over any constituency. Cronje emphasizes the need for private actors to adapt to this changing political environment, asserting that success lies in understanding and exploiting the dynamics of coalition politics.

The conversation delves into various scenarios and potential outcomes. Cronje envisions a future where coalitions, rather than individual parties, shape policy and governance. He discusses the rise of smaller political groupings like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and their impact on the political landscape. Cronje warns against the risks of a potential doomsday scenario where coalition governments fail to govern effectively, leading to economic instability and social unrest.

Regarding the role of businesses, Cronje suggests that they are more likely to influence the political environment indirectly by creating favourable economic conditions rather than direct involvement in politics. He highlights the importance of certainty in property rights and the need for private sector investment in critical infrastructure like railways and ports to unlock economic potential.

Cronje also addresses the possibility of a government of national unity, acknowledging its potential benefits in averting national crisis but also cautioning against its long-term implications. He stresses the importance of maintaining a balance of power and avoiding the consolidation of authority under any single party.

Overall, Cronje’s perspective offers a sober assessment of South Africa’s political future, emphasising the need for adaptability and foresight in navigating the evolving political landscape.

Edited Transcript of the Question and Answer session with Frans Cronje at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg [00:00:07]:

Thank you, Frans. There’s much we can delve into, but I’d love you to start with the Gayton McKenzie accusation that the problem is the ANC and the DA.

Frans Cronje [00:00:23]:

It depends on the question you’re trying to answer. What I see happening is that no single party will have full executive control in the future. Instead, coalitions will become the norm, forcing parties to strike deals. We’ve seen successful examples of this in the Western Cape and elsewhere, governing about 30 municipal districts. The key isn’t whether politicians will create better policies, but how private actors can influence these coalitions to improve their circumstances. Communities that navigate this well will thrive in the emerging market landscape.

Alec Hogg [00:04:00]:

Doesn’t this favour smaller groupings, particularly in regions like the Western Cape and KZN?

Frans Cronje [00:04:13]:

Indeed. The trajectory points towards de facto independence for regions like the Western Cape. This fragmentation mirrors historical shifts in governance, and coalitions will become crucial in navigating this landscape.

Alec Hogg [00:08:31]:

You mentioned the ability to negotiate being essential for future politicians. What insights do you have into how parties like the DA negotiate?

Frans Cronje [00:09:08]:

Negotiating coalitions isn’t straightforward, especially when parties compete for votes. Wealthy donors may influence smaller parties, but coalitions between parties with less in common might actually be more effective. The DA’s urban stronghold won’t easily expand, and a coalition between established and peripheral voters could be risky, as it might lead to joint governance offers from the ANC.

Alec Hogg [00:14:49]:

So, is the future about ‘state-proofing’ ourselves?

Frans Cronje [00:15:13]:

The shift towards coalitions demands a change in mindset. We’re moving towards a society where politicians’ actions matter less, and individual agency becomes more significant. A decentralized society poses challenges, but also opportunities for those who can navigate it effectively.

Audience Member [00:17:37]:

What are the chances of achieving policy change, particularly in healthcare and education?

Frans Cronje [00:17:37]:

The coalition landscape may facilitate policy changes, as private actors gain more leverage in negotiations. Third-party influencers could play a crucial role in shaping governance outcomes.

Audience Member [00:19:57]:

Is there a risk in privatising security amid growing violence?

Frans Cronje [00:19:57]:

Both private security and state control have drawbacks, but the natural response to security concerns often leads to private security solutions. However, this isn’t necessarily a risk to overall security, especially with diverse competition in the sector.

Alec Hogg [00:30:34]:

With substantial cash reserves in companies, what will unlock investment into the country?

Frans Cronje [00:30:51]:

Private rail and port operators, along with certainty in property rights, are key. Policies that promote meritocracy and global concessions can also incentivize investment.

Alec Hogg [00:32:16]:

Do you see a government of national unity as a credible possibility?

Frans Cronje [00:32:16]:

Yes, it’s a potential offer to navigate the fragmented political landscape. However, it poses both opportunities and risks, as it could stabilize the country in the short term but may blur distinctions between opposition and government in the long run.

Alec Hogg [00:36:05]:

Frans Cronje, thank you.

*The above transcript has been condensed and paraphrased for brevity and clarity, and may not capture the full context or nuances of the original interview with Frans Cronje at the Biznews conference, BNC#6.

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