Opposition seeks partners after SAfrica poll success

August 8, 2016 8:05 am
South African main opposition Democratic Alliance party leader Mmusi Maimane speaks to journalists at the Independent Electoral Commission Counting center on August 4, 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa, a day after South African municipal elections © AFP/File / Gaubkuigi Guercia

, Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug 7 – South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance said Sunday it was seeking coalition partners to run major cities including the capital and business centre Johannesburg after defeating the ruling ANC in local polls.

“Informal discussions (have) started. We are now in the process of setting up meetings,” DA lawmaker James Selfe told AFP without indicating who the party was talking to.

“We have a lot of experience in coalitions and I’m confident it will work out,” said Selfe.

The DA, led by Mmusi Maimane, topped the poll in municipal elections in the capital Pretoria, taking 93 seats out of 214 to 89 for the African National Congress, which suffered its worst result since the end of white-minority rule 22 years ago, falling below 60 percent of the vote for the first time.

Maimane on Saturday described the results as “a tipping point for the people of South Africa,” while ANC deputy leader Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s vice-president, said the party would heed the electorate’s message.

With no party securing an absolute majority, the two main parties are set to talk to radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Led by populist Julius Malema, formerly of the ANC, the group says it is open to a role in a coalition — “except with the ANC.”

Despite that initial public stance, the Sunday Times newspaper reported that the ANC and the EFF were in fact in talks in Pretoria, where the EFF garnered 25 seats.

Although a link-up between the latter two parties would appear politically more logical than between the EFF and the centre right DA, it would have to rise above two years of harsh criticism by Malema of President Jacob Zuma.

Following the ANC’s poor showing, Zuma’s position as head of state is now in question, even though his mandate still has three years to run, the poll having been widely seen as a referendum on his scandal-ridden leadership.

Saturday, independent political analyst Daniel Silke told AFP he saw a DA tie-up with EFF as difficult.

“I don’t think EFF is the best coalition partner for DA as they are diametrically opposed on every issue — it could be unstable,” Silke said.

– ‘No ideological barrier’ –

Selfe said, however, it was feasible.

“With EFF we are equally keen to provide good quality services for the people and particularly for the poorest of the poor. There’s no ideological barrier with EFF on this,” he insisted.

There is uncertainty in the business capital Johannesburg, where the ANC also lost its majority in Johannesburg, as it did in Pretoria and also, humiliatingly, in Port Elizabeth, officially known as “Nelson Mandela Bay” after the late former ANC leader and president.

South African ruling African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma (R) delivers his speech as ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (L) listens during the ANC closing rally campaign for the municipal elections at Ellis Par Stadium © AFP/File / Marco Longari

The ANC did top the poll in Johannesburg but it missed a majority by 15 seats while the EFF captured 30.

In Port Elizabeth, the DA requires four seats in order to be able to govern, but should be able to receive sufficient support from several smaller parties.

Although at the national level ANC remains the nation’s top party, it saw its support plunge to 59.3 percent nationwide, a drop of eight points from 2011.

The parties now have two weeks to form coalitions and elect new municipal councils.


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