South Africa doesn’t need a coalition government: analyst

 ·5 Jun 2024

The ANC has lost its majority in parliament, but it may not need to form a coalition government with other parties.

The Cyril Ramaphosa-led party was dealt a significant blow in the recent national and provincial elections.

It only got 40.18% of the national vote while also losing its provincial majority in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Northern Cape.

The South African population and investors have been waiting to see who the leading party chooses as its coalition partner, with the DA, IFP, EFF and Jacob Zuma-led MK seen as potential allies.

However, speaking on the latest PSG Think Big webinar, political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki said that forming a coalition is not a necessity or a requirement for forming a government.

“People are getting carried away by coalition thinking, but nowhere in the Constitution does it say that this is a necessity,” said Mbeki, who is the brother of former South African President Thabo.

One of the non-coalition types of governments that has been touted is the confidence and supply agreement.

This is a scenario where parties or members in parliament agree to support the government in motions of confidence and appropriation votes but are otherwise free to vote in favour of their own policies or on conscience on legislative bills.

This is vastly different to formal coalitions, where the coalition partners are expected to settle on policies and move and vote as a united front.

“We’ve seen that parties looking to govern by forging unity out of diversity tend to fragment when they’re confronted by a fundamental political or economic crisis,” Mbeki said.

He said that the ANC support falling well below 50% was not surprising.

“Since the 2016 local government elections, the ANC has been losing support, primarily from black working-class voters in the metros.:”

He attributed this to the politics of the ANC, which he said did not resonate with the working class and the poor.

“Hopefully the ANC gets the message voters sent and learns something.”

What needs to be done

That said, the ANC’s loss of an outright majority does signal a change in how the government will work in the future.

Mbeki advocates for scrapping black economic empowerment (BEE) policies, which he states are the main cause of corruption and inefficiency in the economy and have negatively impacted entrepreneurship.

“Interestingly, the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) say it doesn’t agree with this policy, either,” he added.

Despite the problems facing South Africa, he believes that South Africa is still not lost.

“South Africa is not off track. The ANC government has not brought about a crisis in our society. It has mismanaged the railway system, the electricity supply system, and discouraged entrepreneurship by BEE policies. However, that doesn’t mean the country is in a crisis.”

He cited public spending as a critical problem, particularly in a country with the worst income inequality in the world.

“We have one of the most unequal societies in the world coupled with one of the highest unemployment rates, yet the public service in South Africa is the highest paid in the world as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

Citing data from the OECD, he said that salaries for the public sector in South Africa cost over 14% of GDP, far above the 5% of GDP for other development states, such as Chile and Indonesia.

“We have yet to form new parties in South Africa that represent all the social and economic groups. We are at the beginning of our democratic journey. In the years to come, new parties will emerge. We should refrain from despairing and thinking that there are instant solutions for a perfect government.”

Read: Cloudy with a chance of interest rate cuts for South Africa

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