ANC coalition conundrum leaves supporters on edge

Cyril Ramaphosa (Image: Reuters)
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For the first time since the end of white minority rule 30 years ago, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is grappling with the reality of sharing power.

Lifelong ANC member Sinah Molokwane struggles to accept this unprecedented shift as the party’s leaders meet to discuss potential coalition partners following a significant electoral setback.

Discontent with economic stagnation, high unemployment, crime, and persistent power blackouts has eroded the ANC’s majority, forcing it to consider alliances with rival parties to form a new government.

Potential coalition partners range from the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to the pro-business, white-led Democratic Alliance (DA). However, many ANC members find the idea of partnering with the DA, a party associated with South Africa’s painful apartheid past, deeply troubling.

“I am wondering who is going to be with the ANC in the coalition… So, I’m just worried about that, but hopefully not the DA,” said 52-year-old Molokwane, a Soweto resident and ANC Women’s League member.

Outside the ANC leadership meeting, demonstrators held yellow signs reading “Not in Our Names. NotWithTheDA,” expressing their opposition to a potential alliance with the DA.

While the business community and global investors favor a deal with the DA, many ANC supporters view it as a regression to white minority rule. “We wouldn’t want to see the white minority running the country again after what they did to us during apartheid,” said 90-year-old ANC supporter Rosebella Joyi from East London.

Despite these concerns, the DA’s governance of the Western Cape since 2009 has seen the province outperform the rest of the country in terms of economic stability and job creation. Cape Town, the province’s main city, is a major tourist destination and suffers less from the national power cuts.

Still, ANC supporters like Virginia Hili, 58, from East London remain skeptical. “We know that economic stability is important, and we see that Cape Town is better when it comes to job opportunities,” she said. “But we don’t know what the ANC will promise the DA in return for its support.”

Coalition Complications

To avoid alienating its support base, the ANC is considering a government of national unity involving multiple parties, despite internal party documents warning such an alliance could be highly unstable. A narrower coalition with the DA, which would have given the latter top parliamentary positions, was outrightly rejected by ANC leadership.

In the new National Assembly, the ANC will hold 159 seats out of 400, while the DA will have 87. Other potential coalition partners include the populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) with 58 seats, the EFF with 39, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party with 17, and the far-right Patriotic Alliance with nine.

Each potential partner presents unique challenges for the ANC. Former President Jacob Zuma, leader of the MK, is now an implacable rival of President Cyril Ramaphosa and has rebuffed the ANC’s approaches for talks. Zuma was ousted as president in 2018 amid corruption scandals and later jailed for contempt of court.

The EFF, led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, might be the most ideologically aligned with the ANC. However, the EFF’s radical policies, including nationalizing mines and banks and seizing white-owned land, pose significant economic risks. Additionally, Malema’s contentious history with the ANC could lead to instability within the coalition.

“I don’t know if there would be peace,” said Molokwane regarding a potential partnership with the EFF. “It’s tough. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Source: Reuters