ANC top brass reluctant to work with the EFF
Numbers in the three metros in the ANC’s internal polling suggest it will receive less than 45%; however, the party is hopeful that it will regain Ekurhuleni metro through a coalition.
Party insiders are said to already have verbal agreements with existing coalition partners in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg.
Another coalition partner in Ekurhuleni, the African Independent Congress (AIC), is said to have also made a commitment to continue talks with the governing party when the results begin trickling in.
The ANC president first voiced a reluctance for governing through coalitions in July during a meeting of this party’s national executive committee (NEC), saying that the party’s experience since the emergence of coalitions in 2016 has demonstrated that “coalition governments are incapable of effectively driving development, providing quality services and ensuring proper accountability”.
“There have been discussions that we must get used to coalition governments, but we cannot and must not because coalitions do not deliver. We need to ask ourselves what is the nature, scale and complexity of the challenge facing local government. We need to consider the impact of counsellor selection and deployment,” he said.
Instead of looking at coalitions, Ramaphosa proposed an overhaul of the party’s selection of mayors, councillors and municipal senior management.
The ANC was able to regain power in Johannesburg through a fragile coalition with the IFP, Al Jama-Ah, the AIC, the Patriotic Alliance (PA), and the United Democratic Movement.
Its agreement with the PA’s Gayton McKenzie, who also helped the ANC and Mzwandile Masina regain the Ekurhuleni metro, ended bitterly last year because of governance issues.
In November last year the governing party severed ties with the PA, with the ANC’s Johannesburg secretary, Dada Morero, citing failure to understand the separation between the party and the state, suspension of employees without following proper procedure and “a lack of due regard for good governance”. The PA was charged with the economic development portfolio of the metro.
EFF coalition ‘a last resort’
The M&G understands that although the ANC’s top brass are comfortable with continuing to be bedfellows with other smaller parties, Ramaphosa, Duarte and party chairperson Gwede Mantashe are all in agreement that a coalition with the PA and the EFF will be a last resort.
“The only person in the top six willing to go into a coalition with [Julius] Malema is the treasurer general Paul Mashatile. The others have already expressed that under no circumstances can they be held at ransom by the EFF. Paul tried to go into a coalition with the EFF in Tshwane and you saw the result. No one was happy,” a senior NEC member, who wished to remain anonymous, told the M&G.
In October 2020, the ANC in Tshwane opted not to field a mayoral candidate in the municipality after talks between the governing party and the EFF reached an impasse.
The EFF was ready to govern. With its 25 seats, the EFF attempted to strong arm the ANC into voting for its own candidate, in a move supported by Mashatile. However, when the ANC caucus met with Mashatile shortly before the council sitting, it expressed outrage and threatened to revolt. The ANC then refused to take part in the mayoral election, which resulted in the election of DA mayor Randall Williams.
In previous interviews, Malema has indicated his party has set its sights on governing in eThekwini.
The EFF took eight seats in eThekwini in 2016, with the ANC comfortably winning the region with 127 seats.
One party leader who sits on the EFF’s central command team said the party will use numbers it is hoping to gain in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as leverage during negotiations.
“Whether we go into a coalition with the ANC, the IFP and even the high and mighty DA, they will have to make concessions and there will be non-negotiables. The ANC will not publicly say they do not want to go into a coalition with us, because they will need us. We have been in talks before and we have seen how they operate with the land question; we will stand firm as we did with land,” the party leader said.
The EFF, much like other parties who are waiting to be wooed by the ANC and the DA, will be in a better position to make demands.
Speaking to the M&G last week, EFF chairperson Veronica Mente said that the party is prepared should the ANC and the DA refuse to form coalitions with it.
“We are very comfortable with what they are saying, because it gets to show people who they want to serve, who is their priority and what are their priority areas to deliver services. Anyone who is threatened by the radical economic policies of the EFF, we are comfortable with them saying they don’t want to work with us,” she said.
Who will be the kingmakers?
Bonginkosi Dhlamini, the IFP’s Gauteng chairperson, told the M&G that the party was hoping to do well in the region and become the kingmakers in the country’s economic engine room. Although not willing to speak about whether the IFP had already made a commitment to the ANC, Dhlamini said the environment was far better than it was in the 2016 elections.
“There is a level of respect when we deal with the ANC. The DA as a party, they can’t handle coalitions. It was worse in Johannesburg with the personality of [Herman] Mashaba. All coalitions have their own challenges,” he said.
A member of the IFP’s executive committee told the M&G that the party expects to be stronger in the metros in Gauteng, which will allow it to demand more during the coalition talks.
Meanwhile, insiders in the DA said that its polls suggested that the ANC will receive only 40% of the vote in Johannesburg, with the DA itself expecting to receive 44%.
Much like the ANC, the DA is also expecting to rely on its coalition partners to regain control of the metros it won in 2016. However, its numbers suggest that this will be an uphill battle, dependent on voter turnout in its traditional bases, a federal executive member said.
The insider said that one of the party’s challenges in Johannesburg suburbs is Mashaba’s ActionSA.
The DA leader said the party is hoping that its message that voting for smaller parties will split the vote to mean an ANC victory will help the DA.
In Tshwane, the DA’s polls have suggested that the ANC will be marginally ahead of the official opposition. The party predicts that the ANC will receive 46% in Tshwane, and that the DA will gain 43% of the votes, the insider said.
“The biggest problem in Tshwane for the DA is the Freedom Front Plus [FF+]. ActionSA has not really had that much influence there, but if the DA and the FF+ with other smaller parties manage to squeeze votes away from the ANC, then we are in the clear. We have also looked at voter turnout. The ANC voters are unlikely to come out in their numbers. This will benefit us and our coalition partners,” the party leader said.
Previously, in interviews with the M&G, DA leaders said the party had already braced itself to lose more than 200 seats at local government level. The party leaders said the party was confident of regaining power only in the Cape Town metro.
“Helen Zille was sent to Nelson Mandela Bay because she is still popular there. We needed someone of her stature to counter any possible damage of [mayor Nqaba] Bhanga’s accident,” the another party member said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC faces the probability of being forced into coalition agreements in a number of municipalities falling under the Zululand, Umkhanyakude and King Cetshwayo districts, which it currently controls and which are likely to be hung if the IFP continues with on the trajectory of resurgence it enjoyed in the province in 2019.
Talks with the NFP
When the ANC missed the deadline for candidate submission for most of the municipalities in Zululand, it held informal talks with the National Freedom Party (NFP) about backing its ward candidates in return for proportional representation seats.
It is likely the ANC will turn to the NFP again after 1 November in the Zululand district to maintain control of municipalities it took in 2016, including uPhongolo.
In the Umgungundlovu district municipality, which the ANC also controls, growth by the DA in the Umngeni local municipality may see the governing party lose part of its 9 percentage-point margin and be forced to seek out new coalition partners to run the council.
IFP elections head Narend Singh and Mdu Khoza, its leader in eThekwini, have both indicated the party’s intention to “increase its influence” within the metro, where it holds two ward and eight proportional representation council seats.
This would make the IFP a likely coalition partner for the ANC — which took 56% in the Metro in 2016 — in the city, should the governing party’s slide in 2019 continue and should it lose its 6 percentage point majority and its ability to govern alone.
The independent candidates contesting the election under the banner of the Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) and other groupings are not likely to be willing to throw their weight behind the governing party in eThekwini.
Mervin Govender, the spokesperson for the F4SD grouping, said it was “not interested” in working in any form of coalition with the ANC or any of the big parties should it secure council seats.
Govender said the grouping would rather play an activist, oppositional role in council.
“We will work on issues with any party that supports a pro-poor agenda and that doen’t jeopardise the economy,” Govender said. “We don’t want to be working with the existing big parties [that] have messed things up. We are not interested in patronage and coalitions.”