DA’s Moonshot Pact to be a tale of coalitions, or not – JK

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is seeking to form a “Moonshot Pact” of like-minded parties and groups to stop an ANC-EFF coalition government in South Africa. DA Leader John Steenhuisen believes the next President could be the leader of the coalition, and to prevent a “Doomsday” scenario of expropriation without compensation, ending Reserve Bank independence, and steep economic decline. While it is unlikely that the DA and its allies will win the next election, this strategy could help coalesce support around the coalition parties. However, forming and ensuring that multiple parties work together towards a goal will be a difficult task, and it remains to be seen whether such a coalition could succeed. Read more below.

DA’s Moonshot Pact for power and the need to avoid bad coalitions

By Jonathan Katzenellenbogen

Party congresses are about putting on a show for the next election and are full of big talk. But the Democratic Alliance (DA) has for long been used to losing at national level, and big talk would have been seen as empty. Back in Progressive Party days, and until recently, the DA did not have a hope of being part of a national government. Things have changed.

The ANC is in decline and the power it holds could soon be up for grabs. The message at the DA Congress over the weekend was that the DA leader could be the country’s next President as head of a coalition in power after next year’s election. To get there, DA Leader John Steenhuisen called for a “Moonshot Pact” of like-minded parties and groups to stop a “Doomsday ANC-EFF coalition”.

The “Doomsday coalition”, says Steenhuisen, would make Zimbabwe a dress rehearsal for what happens in South Africa. The nightmare would involve expropriation without compensation, ending Reserve Bank independence, and steep economic decline.

Given the maths, it is unlikely that the DA and its allies will be in power next year, but it could happen in ten or fifteen years’ time.

Read more: CIAG congratulates Steenhuisen but sceptical over ‘Moonshot’

For some time the anti-ANC and anti-EFF parties have been co-operating, but to make it all formal with a Pact would give the idea greater impetus. Steenhuisen will soon approach like-minded parties, such as the Freedom Front Plus, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party, ActionSA and civil society groups to form this coalition, to prevent an ANC-EFF coalition in power.

The very idea of forming a coalition to push the ANC out of power shows the party has bold ambitions. It could help coalesce support around parties in the coalition. The DA share in most polls over the past six months has been rising. Population movement from rural to urban areas is in the DA’s long-term favour, and that could significantly boost its share of the vote over time. All this might be wishful thinking for DA supporters, but if the Moonshot coalition can capture the imagination of voters and get people to the polls on a massive scale it could all work out.

Bringing together multiple parties and groups and ensuring that they work toward a goal will be a difficult task. But the urgency of our increasingly dire plight might just allow egos and infighting to be calmed. It also says to smaller parties that the Moonshot Pact could be your path to power.

But this is not the only type of coalition into which the DA might enter. The party has ruled out any coalition with the EFF, but there is still a chance that the DA would do a deal with the ANC to keep the EFF out of government.

Forming a coalition with the ANC would be highly damaging to the DA, even though the aim would be one of keeping the EFF out of power. Leading the Moonshot Pact and being part of an ANC coalition would be at odds. The DA’s credibility with the electorate would be severely damaged if it went into any deal with the ANC, even to save the country from the EFF.

Should the ANC fall a few percentage points short of a majority, it would make offers to the smaller parties to join them in government. If it cannot fill its gap in support to form a government from small parties, it would then turn to the EFF. If the EFF and ANC do not do a deal, they might then turn to the DA. But the ANC might also turn to the DA in order not to do a deal with the EFF. The ANC would far prefer a coalition with a fellow racial national party than the DA, but the EFF might be too demanding. An alternative for the ANC might be to try and rule the country as a minority government, but this might not last before elections are called.

Read more: Hersov’s “Dear John…” to re-elected DA Leader (as Rob heads for the door)

The DA tends to avoid talking about the possibility of a coalition with the ANC to keep the EFF from power. It would be best for the DA to rule out such a disastrous deal with the ANC. In such a coalition, the DA would be powerless to control ANC cadres in the government departments it runs. But it would share the blame for the country’s continuing decline.

Steenhuisen has declared the EFF as the DA’s “number one political enemy”, but it might be best for him to keep his eye on the ANC alone. There are signs that the EFF is not growing and might decline at the polls next year. The young voters to whom it appeals for support tend to stay away from the polls in droves. And while an ANC-EFF coalition might cause severe economic damage, it could be a very shaky arrangement as the parties constantly jockey for position.

There is also a model for the future of coalitions in the country from the recent experiences in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Tshwane. These have all been tumultuous, and it is debatable whether it was worthwhile to enter into any of these arrangements. In Johannesburg, the DA Mayor Mpho Phalatse was elected with the help of the EFF and then fell when the Patriotic Alliance withdrew its support. Ekurhuleni DA Mayor Tania Campbell was ousted last week by a coalition made up of the ANC, EFF, and seven smaller parties. She has been engaged in a mammoth battle to stay in office and has not been able to achieve much.

In Tshwane the DA held the city, then lost the city, and have now regained the city with Cilliers Brink’s election last week. The city’s finances are in a bad way, and it is uncertain if the electorate will give him credit for a turnaround if that happens.

Cadre deployment means that the staff in all three cities are opposed to the DA. Despite DA rule, all three towns are now in a worse financial position, and all these mayors were unable to make improvements.

Read more: “Job-shedding” – Steenhuisen explains how ANC’s lack of urgency on Eskom is damaging SA

The DA should have learned a great deal from these experiences about where to tread in the future, particularly in national government. The Moonshot Pact holds out the best hope for a coalition that can displace the ANC. It has much potential in drawing clear political lines and in focusing on a goal to build broad support. But it could easily be tainted by the lures of bad coalitions.

Rather than even considering an entry into any form of coalition with the ANC to block the EFF from power, the DA should best focus on keeping up a strong opposition to the ANC and EFF and building support for the Moonshot. It will do a lot more for the country and the Moonshot by keeping up its opposition, than by wasting time in damaging coalitions.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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