Coalition government: DA the favourite, EFF the feared

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is in the strongest position to enter into a coalition government with the African National Congress (ANC) after next year’s general election. But a coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would be a feared outcome. That is the view of Professor Stig Jensen from the Centre of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He speaks to BizNews about governance crises in Africa; how resistance movement-based governments are being increasingly challenged; how liberation movements fail to successfully transition to government; and how some governments became more authoritarian in the time of Covid-19. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:31 – Prof. Stig Jensen what trends have emerged during COVID
  • 01:47 – On if resistance based governments in Africa are beginning to face increasing challenge.
  • 02:56 – On South Africa’s difficult transition from liberation movement to government
  • 06:17 – On ANC’s next move in 2024
  • 07:30 – On the EFF and DA
  • 09:07 – On SA’s neutral stance in the Russia/Ukraine war
  • 16:13 – On SA’s prospects in 2024
  • 20:14 – End

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Highlights from the interview

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is in the strongest position to enter into a coalition government with the African National Congress (ANC) after next year’s general election.

But a coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would be a feared outcome.

That is the view of Professor Stig Jensen from the Centre of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“First of all, I think the result plays a very important role here because the muscles you have, the voter power, is actually important here. So I think that the DA probably are in the strongest position because I think they will probably get a lot of votes…DA have also had a lot of experience from sort of leading, you know, local governments in many places. And therefore, I think it would be attractive for the ANC to work together with them. And also in particular, if South Africa would like to pursue the same economic development that you have done since the establishment of the Rainbow Nation. 

Read more: WSM: Big business partners with government – can SA’s CEOs save the economy?

“If they should move towards working together with the Economic Freedom Fighters, then it will also mean that they have to change their whole economic model. And there I think one of the difficulties for ANC, and also I think for many South Africans, is that they have seen the implications in Zimbabwe with these fast-track land reforms and these other things and how the economy have collapsed there. So I think working together with Economic Freedom Fighters, taking a new route economically is something that many people are afraid of.”

Meanwhile, Professor Jensen is concerned that a large proportion of the “born free” generation will not register to vote. “And I think that’s a problem for democracy if a large proportion of people are not voting and in particular the young people because the young people is the future…and of course ANC will be challenged big time and it will be really interesting to see the result and also to see if the young people actually register who will they actually vote for because this is not a homogeneous group.”

However, should many of the millions of young currently unregistered voters decide to go to the polls, the EFF could be the party to benefit most. “…I would expect that it will help the Economic Freedom Fighters more than the other political parties. And I’m sure that it will be really, really difficult for the ANC to get a large chunk of these people because they are simply tired of these old people that link up to yesterday’s agenda and not coming up with anything positive, seeing them more like the problem than the solution. And that is the ANC’s biggest problem at the moment, I think, in relation to the younger generation.”

Professor Jensens says the ANC is one of the resistance-based governments in Africa that are being increasingly challenged. “…I see that in South Africa, I see it in Namibia, I see it in Mozambique and I see it very clearly in Zimbabwe, definitely,” he says.

Read more: Can the ANC and DA forge an unlikely alliance? – Katzenellenbogen on SA’s grand coalition debate

“First of all, I think we should be aware (former President) Nelson Mandela is still sort of a hero all over the world. And this transition that you had in South Africa is sort of something that everybody sort of sees as a model to follow. But I think again coming from being sort of a movement going into government, that’s a very, very difficult thing. And also it was a very difficult – and still is a very difficult situation – in South Africa with so many poor and marginalised people; making life better for them is extremely difficult for a government – and the ANC have not been successful in that. And that is not just me who’s saying. That’s the majority of people who don’t see that they have been successful. 

“And in particular, with young people, they are impatient. They want somebody who is doing the things right. And then, of course, for the younger generation, things like nepotism and corruption, that’s simply unacceptable.”

Among the serious consequences of the crisis in governance in resistance-based governments have been radicalisation and polarisation. “We see it a lot… Definitely. And I think these things about radicalisation, we also see that very clearly in South Africa…Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). That’s a very good example of, that you could sort of say, split out groups from ANC that start a new party that is much more radical. And in that way also attract people because ANC haven’t provided on a number of the crucial things that should have been provided. And that opens up for radical people to work together. They could work together in an alternative political party, but they could also work together in doing activities that are negative for society in general.

“I see that and I see not only radicalisation, but I also think there’s another issue that is really important, polarisation. And I think one of the really big problems for ANC, Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe) and Swapo (Namibia) is that they’re not very good at negotiating with these other people. They try again to exclude them and try to fight them. And that is sort of poison for…society and societal aspects where you can actually keep the society together. Then you will have the society being much more fragmented and people from these other groups much more difficult to get a dialogue with.”