Pressly: Coalitions – the new political pickle. But who holds the joker?

Coalitions are set to become the buzzword in August, that is if the latest municipal polls are to be believed. They point to an extremely tight contest in the major cities, which could see parties team up to gain a much needed majority. Political analyst Daniel Silke feels the Economic Freedom Fighters may play ‘Kingmaker’ in this regard, but which party is going to budge on some touchy policy issues. All three – ANC, DA and EFF – sit far enough away from each other on policy, that supporters may take exception to any form of coalition. Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly throws his hat in the ring, and like Silke, believes the EFF are increasingly looking like this August’s wildcard. A fascinating time to be involved in South African politics. – Stuart Lowman

By Donwald Pressly*

Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.
Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.

Political polling in the major metropolitan areas of South Africa where there is a chance of removing the African National Congress from power, shows that the DA is unlikely to win an overall majority in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. It is quite possible that if the DA is to snatch power, it will have to choose between a coalition with the EFF or joining in a unity government with the election’s likely big loser, the ANC.

It is still three-and-a-bit weeks to the 3 August poll and while the DA is well ahead in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, it is still not polling over 50 percent, which would give it an overall majority. A poll last month by Ipsos – for eNCA – shows that the DA was then slightly behind the ANC in Johannesburg (28% to 29%), but a poll this month shows that it moved ahead there too (it is now polling at nearly 36 percent to the ANC’s 30.87% with the EFF trailing at 9.74%). The DA surpassed the ANC about two weeks back in Johannesburg. Still neither of the big parties gets an overall majority in any of the three “battleground” metros. At Nelson Mandela Bay the DA has been in the lead for some time but its lead is growing and now stands at 41.75%. Significantly the EFF has just short of 10 percent (9.6%), enough to be  help the DA form a majority government, but not enough to keep the ANC in office (it is polling just 21.16%). In Tshwane, the DA is polling at 39.05% against the ANC’s 26.06% while the EFF gets 11.96%. Once again the DA can be transported into power with the help of the EFF if these figures pan out on election day.

Read also: ANC ready to “hug the hyena” in coalitions if it loses SA metros in August

There are no polls available at the moment for Cape Town it seems, but relevant sources indicate that the DA is running near to 70%. While the EFF is not a big player in Cape Town, it is expected it will get about 5%, giving it representation for the first time on the city council of some 10 to 15 proportional representation councillors. Clearly, however, the DA will have no need for coalition partners in Cape Town, where the ANC is retreating significantly. The DA won Cape Town in coalition 10 years ago, but its need for a coalition fell away in 2011.

Not in my Waterkloof or Walmer backyard, surely?

Election prediction is often wrong. The recent Brexit vote – and, indeed, the result of the British national election last year – are proof that polling can be dead wrong, but South African polling has been historically more accurate. If these tallies as suggested in the polling do pan out, there could be DA and EFF coalitions in three cities ahead.

That opens a political hornet’s nest. The EFF are quite open about their anti-establishment political philosophy. They have not opposed land invasions, for example. What happens if the EFF insists that new administrations in the three cities identify large tracks of municipal land for redistribution to the urban poor? How will the DA – which represents the leafy suburb voter as well as the emerging black yuppies – react to that? Their voters in Houghton or Walmer or Waterkloof (and these areas will be municipal wards which the DA will surely win) won’t want a large group of urban poor moving permanently into their shady parks…

But the political reality is that it is most likely that the DA will have to work with the EFF, or choose to strike a deal with a minority partner, the ANC, which has just lost office. It is a political pickle wrapped up in a red herring with more than a few potential fire crackers thrown into the mix. What fun local government politics is going to become after August.

  • Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.