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South Africa: Two weeks to cobble together coalitions after local elections

SOUTH AFRICAN political parties have a fortnight to agree on coalition arrangements in a number of municipalities or submit to fresh elections after final results for last Wednesday’s polls were reported on Saturday.

The results made grim reading for the African National Congress (ANC) although a majority, 53 per cent, of voters backed the former liberation movement across the country.

But the ANC has lost control of key metropolitan areas — Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Port Elizabeth, Tshwane around Pretoria, Ekurhuleni, formerly known as the East Rand, and the largest city Johannesburg.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which has maintained its grip on the country’s second-largest city Cape Town, has also set its sights on building coalitions to displace the ANC in other other major metropolitan areas.

There was comfort for the ANC in eThekwini, which includes Durban, where it won an overall majority, but there may yet be trouble ahead.

Some members there are planning court action to nullify the decision of the party’s elective conference to choose Zandile Gumede as mayoral candidate over James Nxumalo‚ whose supporters had unsuccessfully pursued court action to stop the conference taking place.

Coalitions will not be easy to build since the ANC has called them “tactical marriages of convenience” and said that it could not enter a coalition with the DA.

The third-placed Economic Freedom Fighters will not entertain a coalition anywhere with the ANC and insist that any arrangement with the DA would depend on the interests of poor people being foremost, especially “the African child.”

This may represent an opportunity for tiny groups to offer themselves as partners or it could mean more elections.

Revolutionary trade union federation Cosatu expressed its disappointment at the dramatic decrease in the ANC share of the vote.

But it added that “it would be insincere to pretend that there were no visible signs of a gradual decline of our movement.”

It blamed a “narrow focus on internal factional battles, the corruption scandals and the growing distance from the people” for eroding the party’s high moral ground and weakening its political capacity to play “its historical role of leading society.”

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