Coalition politics is very likely to be the dominant model of government in South Africa for the foreseeable future.
At the moment, this applies at local government only. But it very nearly led to a change in government in Gauteng in May’s election, and as the ANC continues to disintegrate, I am convinced there will one day be a national coalition government, with the DA at its heart.
For that reason, we must work now to show South Africans the proof of concept, that coalitions can and do work all over the world. This doesn’t mean it will be easy. Most times it’s extraordinarily difficult. But without outright majorities, every opposition party is faced with a simple choice: either to allow the ANC to continue its criminal enterprise through the state, or to remove the ANC from power and form a new government with a plurality of political parties with whom you share at least some core values.
In August 2016, a multiparty governing coalition was formed between the DA and five other parties working with us in select municipalities. In its founding agreement, the coalition committed to the following:
- Constitutionalism, which includes respect for the rule of law, separation of powers, and the independence of the Courts;
- Free and fair elections;
- Devolution of powers to provinces and municipalities, where capacity is established;
- Building a capable state exemplified by a professional, efficient and non-partisan civil service
- A free media;
- Improving service delivery, particularly to poor and vulnerable South Africans;
- Eradicating poverty and creating opportunity and security for all South Africans;
- Creating an inclusive local government structure that respects the self-actualisation of the heritage, language and culture of all South Africans.
From as far back as 2006, when the ANC was removed from power in the City of Cape Town by a fragile seven-party governing coalition, we have remained consistent in our approach to coalitions. We will work with any political party that shares our core values of constitutionalism, non-racialism, the rule of law, a market-based economy, the eradication of corruption, and the speeding up of the delivery of basic services to all.
I want to be clear: the DA is not and will never be in power for power’s sake. We exist to deliver excellent, clean government that extends opportunities and improves lives. That is our strongest offer to voters, and any compromise on that would be self-defeating. Our consideration is whether there is any prospect of governing to the standards we set ourselves. That is why we went into government in SA’s biggest cities in 2016, expanding our governance footprint to over 15 million South Africans.
In addition to the formal governing coalition, we were happy to have the EFF support us on an issue-by-issue basis. This allowed our coalition governments to pass budgets, IDPs, and begin to turn those cities around after over 20 years of ANC misrule. While imperfect and tricky, these governance arrangements were working.
As with the 2006 coalition government in Cape Town, at no stage has the DA compromised on any of its core values and principles. Rather, we have rooted out billions of rands of corruption; stabilised economies and increased job opportunities; and sped up the delivery of clinics, houses, roads and other basic services to millions of South Africans.
However, there always comes a “red line”, and the demands made by the EFF last month crossed that line.
In a meeting in June, the leadership of the EFF made several demands to the DA, including becoming a formal coalition partner, and demanding the Mayoralty of Tshwane with immediate effect. The quid pro quo would be to reinstate a DA mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The decision to not accede to the EFFs demands was unanimous among all of the coalition partners. It was inconceivable that the EFF could formally join a coalition agreement that doesn’t share any of its values or principles. Moreover, every party rejected the idea of the EFF taking the mayoralty of Tshwane for a number of reasons, including the EFFs action in installing a UDM/ANC coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Following this decision, the EFF took a decision to not support DA-led coalition governments in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Thabazimbi and Modimolle/Mookgophong.
While it remains unclear as to the extent of the EFFs intentions, we will not relent. Our principles and values will always come first. Should the EFF want to continue working with our coalition governments on an issue by issue, we would be happy to. This arrangement has worked well and been of benefit to all as at a local government level matters are less ideological, and rather service delivery orientated.
However, should the EFF move to force the DA into opposition in these metros and municipalities, we will continue to fight for our values from the opposition benches. We will not sacrifice our principles in order to hold onto power.
That is how a principled organization operates, and that is how I intend to lead the DA.