Let's Think

Coalition the answer – Malema shows the way

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While coalition government is the answer to getting South Africa out the quack mire of state capture and economic decline, the ANC is caught-up in a majoritarian culture, but rays of hope come from Julius Malema and the EFF.

The ANC in government, calls itself an alliance (sometimes a movement), however, at its core it is a coalition of parties; its government-, political-, parliamentary structures, and its policy development and -implementation is run as if it is a unitary entity under the centralised dictates of Luthuli House. There is very little of a culture of compromise and tolerance of differences of opinion under this construct.

Under these circumstances the call by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, at a fundraising gala dinner of alliance partner the South African Communist Party (SACP), for the partners to resolve differences, has very little, if any, hope of succeeding.

On one score he was correct, however, saying the “movement finds itself at a crossroads,” and referring to the dangers of decline and a complete collapse. As a result of the ANC’s culture of centralising power, and the state capture that came with it, South Africa as a properly functioning democracy and its economy, is also at that crossroads.”

He also said it could no longer be denied that there has been a decline of ethics in the movement.

Fact is, however, that save for the judiciary, the ANC’s centralisation and absolute capture of state power has destroyed most checks and balances, essential to a well-functioning democracy – something typical under the majoritarian culture that has taken hold of the county.

The irony is that the South African Constitution, with its proportional electoral system on party lists, aims at exactly the opposite, and was intended to protect minorities and avoid the absolute domination by a single group or party.

That things went wrong on this front, cannot be blamed solely on the ANC. In a way, the country, and its people, in this regard, is to at least some extent, the victim of its history as it developed in the days of apartheid and the liberation struggle.

Our transitional phase, post the 1994 election and the adoption of the Constitution in 1996, was probably too short. The National Party should probably shoulder part of the blame for abandoning the then Government of National Unity prematurely, opening the gate for the ANC to embark on their road of monopolising power.

Light at the end of the tunnel

But, all is not lost and the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming increasingly brighter.

Firstly, are the factions within the ANC becoming decidedly more entrenched in the runup to their own elective conference – in which its policy conference, starting this Friday, could be crucial – and next year’s general election. It remains to be seen if the ANC, and its movement, will arrive at that point in one piece.

Secondly, over recent weeks it has become clear that the ANC’s alliance partners are no longer willing to be treated as junior members of the movement, which are expected to just say ‘yes-and-amen’ to everything coming from Luthuli House. The possibility of the SACP going it on its own in 2018, is becoming an increasing possibility.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the outcome of the municipal elections of 2014 have proven that coalition governments in South Africa can work despite the challenges that come with it. And, something of a coalition culture – with the compromises, pragmatism, and mutual accommodation it requires – has started to develop in the country.

Malema points the way

This was best illustrated by the way that Economic Freedom Fighter’s leader Julius Malema reacted to his coalition partner (in some local authorities), the Democratic Alliance’s troubles with is former leader, Western Cape premier, Helen Zille.

He illustrated a willingness to compromise for the sake of the communal greater good.

There are also a number of positives to take from Malema’s keynote speaker appearance at the South African Property Owners Association conference. The mere fact that he was invited by representatives of an organisation at total odds to his party’s philosophy, show the willingness of South Africans to listen to one another.

 Malema, at closer scrutiny of his address, despite the fact that much of it was packaged in his typical populist rhetoric, also did some groundwork on areas of future cooperation, like the accommodation of small- and informal traders in commercial property developments. 


We think South Africa must expect, and prepare, for a volatile and confusing time ahead in the runup to election 2019 as new political formations and centres of power develop.

Uncertainty, volatility, confusion and adaption are part of times of transition. And, that is exactly the situation South Africa is in at the moment – a next phase of our transition to being a true democracy, with all the checks and balances that comes with it – an huge improvement on the state of state capture by a small elite we find ourselves in at present.

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