The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
A month after DA leader John Steenhuisen proclaimed a Moonshot Pact to sweep the ANC from power next year, the coalition has collapsed at a relatively low first hurdle. Although they had the numbers to eject the ANC alliance from power in the Johannesburg Metro, opposition politicians could not agree on some key issues. Steenhuisen is “unavailable,” but an official DA statement’s reference to “former” coalition partners speaks volumes. Political scientist Dr Frans Cronje, who has been closely involved in the negotiation process, admits things “loop kak” – i.e. discussions are going very badly. But the head of the Social Research Foundation says the turbulence is not unexpected when seen in perspective. He says not all participants appreciate the “epochal change” occurring in SA politics. So mindsets will require time before adjusting to a very different future, which contrasts starkly with an effective one-party state for virtually all of South Africa’s past four centuries. Cronje spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.
Relevant timestamps from the interview:
- 00:50 – Dr Frans Cronje on centrist ANC voters hesitancy to vote for “bickering” coalition parties
- 03:45 – On the failed Moonshot Pact and the difficulties of coalition
- 09:09 – On South Africa’s current political climate
- 11:57 – On SA’s white voter demographic and the DA’s seemingly disproportionate number of white leaders
- 14:16 – On what SA’s government will look like in ten years
- 16:48 – On the DA’s steady growth as a party and where they need to focus their attention now
- 19:52 – Dr Cronje on why he remains hopeful for the future of South Africa
Dr Frans Cronje on the possibility of swinging the 50% vote away from the ANC
The DA is standing at around 25% [of the vote] at the moment. Outside of the DA, there’s a block of parties that range from Inkhata [to] Herman Mashaba and [Action]SA, the ACDP, the Freedom Front and they’ve got about 15. So if you add these two blocks together, we’ve now got 40%. So that’s the broader centrist opposition [that] stands at about 40. So it’s obviously short of 50 [and] you can’t govern with that. So how do you get to 50? The easiest way is that there’s a group of ANC voters, about a third of the ANC voter base, [who] are just as centrist and moderate and the same as this 40%. So it’s a third of the ANC base and the ANC is polling at 50%, let’s say. So let’s say that’s about 15% of the electorate, one third of 50. It’s a little bit more, but let’s make it 50. If you bring that block across to the 40, you’ve done it. 55%, you govern.
Now to bring that block across, you’ve got to do two things as the opposition. The first is that you’ve got to be able to stand together and work together for the advantage of the greater [population]. If you own that and your brand, you will help to liberate this 15% of the total vote out of the ANC market and into your market. It’s absolutely essential. If you don’t do that, then rightly that ANC block says, “Well you know what, we’re not happy where we are. I mean, this is not going very well. But you chaps don’t look much better either, so we might as well just stick where we are.”
It’s perfectly logical. The second thing you need to do as the opposition block is you need to inculcate the realistic belief that where you govern, life will get better. If you do these two things: pull together to work together, stop working against each other [and] work together, and through that, inculcate the belief that life will get better where you do that. The result will be that the ANC is defeated and that we bring a centrist opposition, moderate, sensible government to power a year from now.
On failed coalitions and what the future of SA government will look like
We’re probably not going to reach a point where someone has 50% again and you’re actually going to have to work with your allies. Amazingly, these aren’t adversaries, they’re actually allies – they’re all centrists, they all broadly agree. You’re actually going to have to use them as assets to bring a diverse constituency of voters to the table together and I think we are we’re in the very early stage of this, and it’s going very badly at the moment. But I’m not of the view that [this process] is fatally flawed and I think as these [coalitions] break up and parties experience the consequences of the vast public disappointment [then] this sort of thing will be useful.
Also, we’re still at a point where in Johannesburg, for example – which is the epicentre of the talks at the moment – [where] the ANC with an ally or two can still get to 50%, so that’s still an option. You need to actually put that ANC allied option down far below 50, nearer 40. Then the deal-making becomes becomes easier as well. [The opposition parties are] kind of feeling each other out here a little bit, seeing what the limits are of behaviour and that’s important. As your man on the scene, [I’d say] it’s going very badly at the moment but I don’t think that means it’s a doomed process. And in the longer term I’m quite hopeful that parties will start to make these kinds of talks work.
On the DA’s narrow-mindedness and what they risk by alienating their political allies
If you make the mistakes that the ANC made of thinking your own narrow self-interests are so important that you can actually suspend the interests of your supporters while you sort out your internal wrangling, your relevance is just going to fall away. And that cuts across the across the board, even the DA. [Their vote] is at 25 [and] this other block is 50. The DA must not assume that that is the permanent circumstance here. If that allied block next to the DA feels sufficiently alienated [then] it will be welded together to a point that it could rival the DA.
The DA has got a great asset in that people think of it as THE alternative because it’s bigger than anyone else – the ANC are dying [so] the DA is the alternative. That 25/15 [DA to allied parties vote], I can easily see it after this becoming 23/18 and then we’re very near parity. And if that happens, the DA has thrown away such a valuable thing that it was thought of as THE alternative and it will in future be thought of us as ONE OF the alternatives. [That’s a] huge difference. So it’s under immense pressure to make this work too. And these smaller rivals as well must realise that their future growth and influence depends ultimately on their ability to prove that they can come together and make a deal. It won’t happen this time in Johannesburg, but in the fullness of time I think the prospects begin to improve.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.