South Africa’s Opposition Parties Fail to Clinch Coalition Deals

Updated on
  • Third-biggest party EFF rebuffs DA, ANC bids for pact
  • Alternate forms of cooperation are possible, DA’s Selfe says

South Africa’s two main opposition parties failed to clinch a deal on forming coalitions to manage some of the country’s biggest cities and shut out the ruling African National Congress, meaning they will probably be run by minority governments.

Coalition talks have been under way after Aug. 3 local government elections left 27 municipalities with hung councils. These include the industrial hubs of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, the capital Pretoria, and the southern port city of Port Elizabeth -- centers that were previously controlled outright by the ANC and have combined annual budgets of about 130 billion rand ($9.8 billion).

The Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the ANC’s main rivals, have said previously they are prepared to work together but not with the ruling party. After much debate, the EFF balked at entering into coalitions, said James Selfe, the chairman of the DA’s federal executive committee.

“They are not interested in that,” he said by phone on Wednesday. “We will have to see what other forms of cooperation are possible.”

The EFF won more than 10 percent support in Tshwane, which includes Pretoria, and Johannesburg, making its backing crucial for the ANC and DA to control those cities. Selfe said he couldn’t immediately comment on the DA’s prospects of appointing the mayors of the two cities.

The ANC also hasn’t been able to entice the EFF into coalitions, Gwede Mantashe, the ruling party’s secretary-general, said by phone on Tuesday.

“The main player that can make a difference in the negotiations for the metros is the EFF,” Mantashe said. “They have turned us down, but we are still talking.”

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the EFF’s spokesman, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone. Both the DA and EFF are due to hold press conferences later on Wednesday.

On a macroeconomic policy level, the two main opposition parties are far apart -- 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.

The elections saw the ANC record its worst performance in a vote since Nelson Mandela swept the party to power to end apartheid in 1994. Its share of the national popular vote fell to 54.5 percent from 62.2 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.

For a Quicktake explainer on why the ANC lost voter support, click here