The recent outcome of the no-confidence vote in the eThekwini council may serve as a precursor for what can play out after the 2024 general elections – and what the ANC’s strategy may be.
On Wednesday, 31 January 2024, ANC eThekwini metropolitan mayor Mxolisi Kaunda narrowly survived a no-confidence vote levelled against him by the IFP, 109 to 98.
The ANC, which makes up roughly 43% of the council, saw what it has long dubbed “smaller parties”, carry its mayor over the line as ‘bigger’ coalition partners turned their backs.
The EFF, which currently governs eThekwini in a coalition with the ANC, voted alongside the DA, IFP, ActionSA and others to support the motion to remove the councillor that it had earlier helped elect.
South Africa has seen an increase in coalition governments at a local government level – with the last municipal elections seeing approximately 80 councils having no single party win a majority, needing a coalition to govern.
These trends could manifest at a national and/or provincial level after the general elections in 2024.
At a provincial level, the ANC is also predicted to have a tough time achieving an outright majority – particularly in ANC-run Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2019, the ANC received 50.19% and 54.2% in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, respectively. Polling from the Brenthurst Foundation shows that the ANC sits at 37% in Gauteng and 32% in KwaZulu-Natal.
There have been discussions around the possibility of coalitions between the ANC and ‘larger’ parties post-general election, but what has been shown at the local government level is that the ANC often opts for partnerships between many ‘smaller’ parties, before turning to ‘larger’ parties.
This working relationship between the ANC and ‘smaller’ parties in eThekwini kept it from receiving the boot yesterday. The National Freedom Party’s (NFP) Zandile Myeni, the sole NFP councillor in the city supported the ANC mayor, and was recently endorsed to take over the position of deputy mayorship, the Mail & Guardian reported.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said that the party had decided to give the position to the block of small parties backing its coalition government (who helped it retain control of the city) as it would be “arrogant” and “stupid” of the ANC not to do so.
“[The ANC are] unlikely to absolutely plummet [in the national elections], they’re not going to get 35 or 40% [of the vote]” said futurist Graeme Codrington in an interview with Newzroom Afrika. “I don’t see the ANC looking at the at, the DA or at the EFF for partnerships; they might look at one or even two of the very small parties if they only [around 4%] to get to that to that 50% mark,” he said
If the ANC does not “plummet” in the votes, the very likely scenario would be the party looking to make a grouping of ‘smaller’ parties.
The ANC are currently in numerous coalitions, including with the EFF – leaving its own party officials divided. Some in the NEC have repeatedly called for the severing of ties with the EFF in coalitions, while others, like ANC Veterans’ League and its leader, Snuki Zikalala, expressed a preference for the DA as a possible coalition partner over the EFF.
And whilst the ideological divide on coalitions ensues within the ruling party, local government politics has shown that working with a block of ‘smaller’ parties, when ‘bigger’ partners turn against it, may be up the ANC’s sleeve.
A strategy (which has seen the rise of kingmakers) that could mean the ANC stays in the driving seat. This was touted upon when ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula recently said at a media briefing following the party’s 2024 NEC meeting that a stance supporting an ANC and EFF coalition is “very dangerous because it is the ANC that seems to be begging with the cap in the hand to the EFF in these coalitions – there’s no principle, there is no honesty, there is no loyalty in terms of the agreement.”
With over 350 parties registered with the IEC for the 2024 elections, the incumbent is not short of options of working partners (given they make the threshold to legislature) – and as shown by what happened in eThekwini, may be what it would opt for.