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Tough weeks ahead for SA's major political parties

03 Jun 2024 at 03:13hrs | Views
SOUTH Africa concluded its general elections on May 29, 2024. They were held to elect a new National Assembly as well as the provincial legislature in each of the nine provinces. This was the seventh general election held under conditions of universal adult suffrage since the end of the apartheid era in 1994.

Unlike in most African countries, the pre-election period was relatively calm with no or fewer situations of irregularities, at least according to the head of the African Union Election Observation Mission former President Uhuru Kenyatta. The ruling African National Congress (ANC), despite signs that its support was waning, did not deploy unnecessary and unorthodox survival tactics to retain power.

Provisional results on the website of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, the body established under [Chapter: 9] of the Constitution to manage elections, showed that the ruling party had only managed to secure 40,21% of the votes, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with about 21,77%.

The biggest surprise was the six-month-old uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party led by former President Jacob Zuma which seems to have secured at least 14% of the votes. Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had to settle for fourth position with just about 9% of the votes counted. This is a huge shock as no one had projected such an impact by the MK party six months ago when political parties started campaigning.

The implications of these results, once confirmed, is that the ANC —with just 40% of the votes — is no longer able to form a government and South Africa will for the first time since independence be run by a coalition government due to lack of an outright winner. More than 50% of votes would have enabled ANC to form a government.

Nonetheless, according to their Constitution, a government must be formed 14 days after the announcement of the official election results. This means that parties have already started horse trading to try and construct fragile coalitions.

Before going into possible coalition permutations, the MK party is seen by the white monopoly capital, which backs the Democratic Alliance, as the party pooper. Its initial projection was to bring down the ANC vote to 40% with the hope that the Democratic Alliance would secure 30% and then EFF, at least 20% which would enable to DA to form a coalition with the EFF and other smaller parties. This would see the DA assuming major political power and control over the country and with the ANC out of government.

With the MK now in the picture, those political permutations have been disrupted and the next few days will see ANC going through its major headache in three decades. To form a government, ANC will either need to work with DA, EFF or MK. This is a major headache in so many ways as whatever choice ANC makes, will have a huge bearing on its future.

The first option, which seems to be the most obvious, is a coalition with the DA — a party favoured by the white monopoly capital. This option is being dangled as one of the best ways of strengthening the economy and re-establishing sanity in the country whose political landscape seems replete with potential radicalism. White voters would prefer this arrangement more than any other.

But this arrangement poses major reputational issues for the ANC. For starters, the current ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa has historically been accused of being planted by the white monopoly capital to serve and protect its interests. A coalition government with DA would be seen by many black South Africans as handing over the country back to white rule. That would confirm the sellout tag which may cause a huge reputational risk that will see the ANC losing more support from black voters.

An ANC-MK coalition is seen by some as almost impossible given the tensions between Zuma and the current ANC leadership. MK has been stating its willingness to engage with any progressive African-led political parties except the Ramaphosa-led ANC. This means that if Ramaphosa steps down, an ANC-MK coalition government is a possibility. Two weeks is a lot of time for such major changes.

There is also a possibility of the ANC-EFF coalition. Generally, markets or the white monopoly capital is edgy when it comes to the EFF being in government and this is because of its radical socialist policies. For ANC, EFF would be an easier choice, but the perception of a radical socialist party will not help especially if ANC wants to rebuild the economy as a way to recover its waning support base. In the current context, DA can only engage with ANC as it has labelled the MK and EFF as unwanted political devils.

DA would only be happy working with EFF where it has votes and control over the institutions of government, but in this case, it is a complete no. Whatever the situation, South Africa is expected to form a government in less than two weeks. Only time will tell if the future of the country will prevail over political grudges and ideological differences.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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