South Africa Opposition Forges Informal Pact to Hurt ANC

  • DA, EFF won’t enter into formal coalition, Malema says
  • ANC failed to meet any of EFF’s demands for coalition

South Africa’s two main opposition parties agreed to informally band together in local governments, shutting the ruling African National Congress out of the management of several of the country’s biggest cities with budgets of billions of dollars.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party said it will vote with the Democratic Alliance in a number of the 27 municipalities left with hung councils after Aug. 3 elections, stopping short of a formal pact because of ideological differences. The EFF won more than 10 percent support in Tshwane, which includes the capital, Pretoria, and Johannesburg, making it the kingmaker that could decide whether the ANC or the DA controls the cities and their combined budgets of more than 80 billion rand ($6 billion).

“We were caught between two devils and we had to choose a better devil,” EFF leader Julius Malema told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday. With the opposition controlling the cities “you start breaking the powers of patronage that the ANC has in these areas. We want the ANC to be removed from power and this is the beginning.”

ANC Slide

The opposition alliance is the latest signal that the stranglehold the ANC has had on South African politics since it took power under Nelson Mandela 22 years ago is slipping. The party’s share of the national popular vote fell to about 55 percent from 62 percent in national elections two years earlier, with a series of scandals implicating President Jacob Zuma, an economic slump and high unemployment eroding its urban support.

The two main opposition parties are far apart when it comes to economic policy -- the DA favors making it easier to do business in Africa’s most-industrialized economy, while the the EFF advocates the nationalization of mines and banks and the expropriation of white-owned land without compensation.

Besides the agreement with the EFF, the DA has also entered into partnerships with the smaller Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People and United Democratic Movement, DA leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters in Johannesburg.

‘Stop Patronage’

“We campaigned for change and we want change,” Maimane said. “We want to be the best we can to stop patronage and destroy a very arrogant organization in the ANC.”

The opposition will control four major cities with a combined budget of about 126 billion rand. The ANC retains outright control of just three of the main metropolitan areas -- Durban, Buffalo City and Mangaung, which have a combined estimated expenditure of 56.6 billion rand. It remains unclear who will run Ekurhuleni, an industrial hub adjacent to Johannesburg, which manages about 40 billion rand.

One potential hurdle is that the EFF said it objects to the DA’s nomination of cosmetics entrepreneur Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg. Mashaba remains the party’s candidate to lead the city’s council, Maimane said.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party was still in talks with a number of parties and declined to comment further.

Governance challenges

The informal opposition alliance may make the cities more difficult to govern, said Melanie Verwoerd, an independent political analyst.

“All the minority local governments will have to go to the EFF for approval on budget, raising rates and taxes and any other issue that requires 50 percent plus one of the councilors,” she said by phone from Cape Town. “For this to work, politicians at local level need to show a strong amount of maturity and, unfortunately, we have not even seen this at the national level.”

Malema, 35, said coalition talks with the ANC collapsed after the ruling party rejected its demands to remove Zuma, nationalize the country’s mines and seize land without compensation.

Remove Zuma

Zuma leading the country “makes our blood boil,” Malema said. “If the ANC removes this crook, there will be peace.”

Zuma, 74, has faced demands to quit since the nation’s top court found in March he violated the constitution by refusing to pay back taxpayer money spent on upgrading his rural home. Erratic decisions including firing a respected finance minister have contributed to the rand falling 38 percent against the dollar since he took power in 2009. The country’s graft ombudsman has been asked to investigate claims Zuma’s friends, the Gupta family, have sought to influence the appointment of government ministers.

Malema formed the EFF three years ago after being expelled from the ANC. He was the head of the ruling party’s youth wing.

“We move into uncharted territory with the minority governments at local levels,” Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town, said by phone. “This means that new systems, new alliances and new relationships will have to be forged across party lines and this places a question mark over efficient service delivery.”

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