SA opposition warns against ANC-EFF “Doomsday”

In a bid to stave off a leftist-led government post-election, South Africa’s Democratic Alliance would look for the least worst option, possibly in the form of an MPC minority government. Concerns loom over potential alliances with the Economic Freedom Fighters or uMkhonto weSizwe Party. DA leader John Steenhuisen warns of dire economic consequences if such partnerships materialize. As polls suggest ANC’s weakening grip on power, Steenhuisen navigates a delicate political landscape, aiming to secure a viable path forward.

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By S’thembile Cele

South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance may consider entering a coalition with the ruling African National Congress to avoid the country being governed by more leftist parties after this year’s election.

A “doomsday scenario” in which the ANC teams up with the Economic Freedom Fighters or the Jacob Zuma-backed uMkhonto weSizwe Party, or MKP, may force the more centrist DA to change its strategy of refusing to deal with the ANC, DA leader John Steenhuisen said in an interview on Thursday.

Opinion polls suggest the ANC will lose its overall national majority for the first time since it came to power three decades ago in the May 29 vote. An outcome in which no party secured more than a 50% majority might force the ANC to seek coalition partners like the EFF and the MKP – a scenario that would be “catastrophic,” Steenhuisen said.

“I think there’ll be massive capital flight from the country,” he said at Bloomberg’s offices in Johannesburg. “I think that there will be disinvestment, and I think that any potential investor is going to look for another emerging market economy where they will invest.”

Steenhuisen, 48, spearheaded the formation of a bloc of 11 opposition parties that aims to form a coalition government after the election. Members of the so-called Multi-Party Charter have ruled out working with the ANC or the populist EFF — currently the third-biggest group — and polls show they’ll collectively struggle to obtain even 40% support.

If the Multi-Party Charter is unable to secure a majority, “we would have to come back and look at what to do next,” he said. The MPC is a “pre-election pact” rather than a coalition agreement, Steenhuisen said, and because it’s not legally binding, parties could theoretically abandon it.

“In an environment where you want to keep the EFF and MK out of government with the ANC, you may end up having to take the least-worst option,” Steenhuisen said, though there would be strict criteria.

The DA would rule out a coalition with the ANC if the party is no longer led by President Cyril Ramaphosa – a scenario that Steenhuisen said may play out if the party has a poor electoral outcome.

The ANC’s plan to establish state health insurance, a bid to amend the constitution to explicitly allow for land to be expropriated without compensation, and corruption would all have to be done away with for the party to meet the ANC at the negotiating table, he said.

This election will be the DA’s first with Steenhuisen as leader, after the ousting of the party’s first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, in 2019. Several senior black leaders have since exited the party.

While the municipalities it controls are regarded as being among the better-run administrations in the country, its top leadership is predominantly White and it has struggled to increase support among the Black majority.

Asked whether South Africans would be hesitant to vote for a party in which most parliamentarians are White, Steenhuisen said citizens want politicians who can address a lack of delivery of basic services and lift people out of poverty.

“People in this election are not looking for the color of the cat — they’re looking at who’s going to catch the mouse,” he said. “You don’t need to be a poor Black South African to get up every morning as I do and fight for a better life for those people.”

The DA was the second-biggest party in the last election in 2019, when it secured 20.7% of the vote.

Steenhuisen said internal polls predicted the party could get anything between 25% and 30% of the vote in the May election. He stopped short of saying he would offer his resignation if the party obtained a lower share of the vote than it did at the previous election.

“I think anything below 2019 I would regard as a spectacular failure, and I don’t think my leadership would be sustainable,” he said.

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