Call for Kenyan style coalition, All-Star cabinet before 2024 – TK Pooe 

There seems to be a real prospect that coalitions will become a new reality at all levels of government in South Africa. It is not just the polls indicating that the ANC could receive less than 50% of the vote; a flurry of activity on both the government and opposition sides of the political spectrum is currently unfolding. An all-party workshop was convened by Deputy President Paul Mashatile to discuss national coalitions and opposition leaders – the Economic Freedom Fighters have not been invited –  are holding a national convention this week to try to find agreement on a coalition that could shift the power balance in the country.In an interview with BizNews, TK Pooe, a senior lecturer, called for the establishment of a Kenyan-style coalition mechanism or vehicle with an all-star cabinet predetermined before the 2024 elections. Pooe says that South Africans are cynical; they want to know what a coalition would entail before casting their votes.  Regarding the matter of who within the ANC would decide on potential coalitions, Pooe says that President Ramaphosa holds the cards and is in the camp that does not favour governing with the EFF. However, the ANC in Gauteng seems to be operating on a different planet, he says and would do anything to survive.  If the ANC receives less than 50% of the vote in 2024, Pooe believes that it would mark the end of Ramaphosa’s presidency and pave the way for Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who is not opposed to collaborating with the EFF. – Linda van Tilburg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:10 – Introductions
  • 01:00 – Tk Pooe on the all party workshop and what he thinks this means for the ANC
  • 01:51 – The disruption caused by smaller parties
  • 03:01 – Why the ANC wants a threshold
  • 04:26 – The differing factions within the ANC
  • 05:58 – The likelihood that the ANC loses power on national level
  • 07:14 – The likelihood that Paul Mashatile will work with the EFF post 2024
  • 07:53 – The National Convention coming up
  • 10:31 – Who could be the leader of the opposition coalition if it comes together
  • 11:51 – The likeliness of the IFP president being the leader of the coalition
  • 13:06 – On the need for Kenyan style coalitions
  • 18:28 – On the likeliness of ANC dropping below 50% in the elections
  • 21:19 – Conclusions

Listen here


Excerpts from the interview

ANC is prepping for coalitions but still believes it can get to 50% plus

If you listen to them, they still believe 50% is possible. I tend to somewhat agree with them. The ANC realises, especially after the havoc that’s happened in the city of Tshwane, the City of Joburg and other areas, that they need to look as though they are prepared for what might come in 2024. So, it’s almost like a pre-emptive strike to say, look, we were not caught with our pants down in 2024 if a coalition were to happen. But, I think the reality is citizens who have become a bit fed-up with the idea that there seem to be no parameters in terms of how these things might work. It just seems to be self-interest more than anything else. 

The proposed seat threshold could end up in court and delay the 2024 election

I think that’s the big question and probably the major issue that’s hanging over whatever might happen in the future. It would seem as though the DA and the ANC have coalesced saying a few principles need to be adopted, it’s around 2% or 3% and that cuts out a lot of the parties that have been giving both the ANC and the DA headaches. So, it’s almost like a lovely mutual agreement. However, I doubt that’s going to be easy to put in place. If anything, were they were to enact it and we’ve heard rumours that there is a policy and those behind the current government who want to enforce this, but I foresee this going through the courts and I think if it is not something they can democratically settle on, it’s going to be something that might even push our elections down the line into the August or September, because I doubt that the smaller parties, we are speaking about percentages, are simply going to lie down and say, listen, you’re going to write us out of existence. 

Read more: Gayton McKenzie on the DA and ANC’s “Vegas” wedding plans

Which ANC will decide on coalitions? 

It also goes back to which ANC we are speaking about. I remember a colleague was speaking to Mr Snuki Zikalala, and he said his ANC, which I think is more aligned with President Ramaphosa’s policies, interpret coalitions quite differently from the ANC in Gauteng. The ANC in Gauteng sees it as a survival tool, meaning they will use whoever and whichever party available to ensure that they can at least control the mechanisms behind the scene. The ANC in Gauteng is quite pragmatic. It is willing to use any means to stay in power. But the broader national ANC, they are the ones who are very cautious in saying let’s go for something more traditional, which means let’s go for a threshold which eliminates us having to deal with and address these smaller parties. If the need does arise, it also leaves us open to a runway to have discussions with the parties who will be above 3%. I think we all know who they’re speaking about, which is the Democratic Alliance. 

Ramaphosa holds the cards, for now, but Gauteng ANC is on a different planet

Gauteng has always lived on its own planet. I think it’s just the Gauteng nature of how things work that we tend to live on another planet and that the ANC, because of fighting for survival, has been more pragmatic. For now, I think we’d have to look at the different leagues, because I think the ANC Youth League also did say they’re not open to work with the EFF. President Ramaphosa and the ANC he represents, which I’d have to say is a majority at this stage, would hold the power. Let’s say Gauteng is between 48% and 49% and all they need is a 2% to come from a party which the national ANC has disagreements with, what would happen? History tells us looking at what’s happened in the city of Joburg, Gauteng is not opposed to going it alone. Remember, there is no direct ANC policy which brings these parties, which brings Gauteng to the table and forces them to have to listen to the national. Until that is enacted within the ANC structures, there’s still some leeway in terms of how they interpret who they are going to work. But for now, I think President Ramaphosa and his ANC seem to hold all the cards. 

Ramaphosa won’t survive if ANC goes below 50%

I think that probably would be the worst-case scenario for him. I don’t even think he’d survive. The others would say, listen, you’re the first ANC president post-1994 to lose this whole election and ensure that the ANC is out of power. Let’s try somebody different who would be more amenable to speaking to other parties and the EFF. Mr Paul Mashatile comes into the fray who is quite pragmatic. He has never really been opposed to working with the EFF. So, if they dip below 50 massively, here we are talking 45% and below, then I think it is not a given that Mr Rampahosa is going to stick around. If anything, the ANC might say we have to try a different person here quickly who is more open to speaking with other parties than Mr Ramaphosa would be. 

I think they will give him a golden parachute and the golden handshake to say, look, it’s time to go; it is not good for your reputation and Mr Ramaphosa, who’s not really looking like he’s enjoying the job much, might be saying, maybe this is a good thing for my legacy that I leave now, and allow this new crop to see what they can do. 

Read more: Coalition conundrum: Why the DA should avoid a coalition with the ANC – Marius Roodt

Follow the Kenyan example for coalitions

One of the things I’ve always argued for is the Kenyan style of forming a coalition, which is to say you create a mechanism or a vehicle. You name whatever you want to name it and say this is a vehicle which we’re going into the election with and this vehicle is neither DA nor FF Plus, it’s a neutral vehicle. You know what the policies are, you know who the individuals are. In the South African context that would be a good thing to do. 

Kenya has not had long-running parties like the ANC or DA in South Africa. So, what they tend to do is coalesce around an individual, which makes it a bit easier. Different individuals, come together and say, listen, I’m not going to use my political party. We’re going to create, let’s call it, the X party. Then you basically create a hybrid of policies, the best of each party’s policies to say, we’re federalists, we believe in the free market. We believe that on contentious issues such as the social grant, we coalesce around that and you have to make that your policy offering to the citizens. I think it’s a better way of doing it than leaving citizens to have to guess to say if the DA goes into this with the Patriotic Alliance, what does this mean? You are being upfront with voters to say, if we were to go into government, coalition or otherwise, this is what we’re going to give you. To go a step further than policy, these are the individuals we can actually put in the National Assembly and across many of the provinces in South Africa. You are not going to surprise voters. You want to say this is what we are. This is what we represent and you can also manage the many different individuals within different parties. 

An all-star cabinet with the best from each party, Steenhuisen as vice-president 

For instance, if it really does come to an issue many of the opposition parties could say, Mr Steenhuisen, we like you because you bring a very powerful DA mechanism. We’d rather want you as our candidate, as a vice-president or the head of Treasury and then nominate Mr Hlabisa as our president. 

So, we’re giving you something in return for you and your party to discuss. You have the ability to say, listen, when it comes to local government, DA you have had a history of good mayors. Why did we pick Geordin Hill-Lewis or if you want to pick another DA mayor who has done well, or in the case of Action SA, you say. Mr Herman Mashaba you do well with business, we’ll put you as the head of that. So, it’s almost like an all-star, if you use a football analogy. You get to pick the best from each party and you get to see what their policies are.  I think that would be a better way to do it in South Africa, because you tell citizens and voters to say, Guys, we actually are all in this together. It is neither a DA thing and it is neither an IFP thing. This is a party which wants to save South Africa, give it a proper course correction for South Africa. Maybe it is easier for South Africans to understand this is to look at the ANC. The ANC has the SACP, and COSATU has other affiliates. Whether they pick the best, or the brightest from those, I leave that up to your viewers and listeners to decide. To unseat the ANC is not about just saying it, it’s about doing something very different.

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South Africans are cynical, show us what your coalition looks like, don’t wait until the day after the election

If you’re looking to get an alternative to the ANC and put your policy offering at the table, be honest and sincere because South Africans are a cynical lot. Show us, this is what it looks like. Don’t make us have to wait till the day after the election. I think this vehicle will give them a great option to be able to say, listen, in the background, you can sort out the fights that you want, but most importantly, you’ve given the policy, you given the individuals and most importantly, you have given us the ability to think outside of the ANC in a real way. You just have to register this with the IEC because then you get rid of all the lots and lots of other political parties. Then you can even speak about thresholds and say, listen for you to join this new vehicle – do you subscribe to believing in the market, SMEs and the like? I think it’s an easy conversation to have for citizens to say, well, at least I know what I’m voting for. 

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