Coalition hesitance spoils EFF’s image – Party should rise above Zuma hate
Coalition. It’s on everyone’s lips. Most importantly it’s giving sleepless nights to politicians who are scrambling to clinch deals to lead hung municipalities.
Twenty-seven municipalities are currently without winners. But it is horse trading at the four metros where the ANC lost its outright majority that is arresting the most attention.
Not since its defeat in the City of Cape Town in 2006 has the ANC found itself in such a precarious position – except this time it’s worse.
The DA has been celebrating. The party did well and the numbers prove that. Nevertheless it is not in the position it had hoped for. Although it trounced the ANC in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane metros and got well within range of beating the ruling party in Joburg, the DA’s fate rests in the hands of other opposition parties.
It is the kingmakers that are sitting in the sweet spot. They can put anything on the table. They can sense the anxiety in the ANC and the anticipation in the DA. And they can play at the desperation of the two principal parties.
Of all the kingmakers, it is the EFF that holds greatest sway. It did not win any council but the fledgling party will not be disappointed at its showing in these elections.
The EFF has no pressure to prove that its policies could work. It has not been given an outright mandate to make good on the unbelievable bag of “commitments” (read promises) it made to its faithful supporters.
But it’s already evident that the party’s power to sway the contested metros is giving its party leaders a big head.
Going into the elections, party leaders were emphatic that they would not entertain any coalition with the ANC. As results kept trickling in and it became clearer that the ANC had not retained its majorities in the metros, EFF leaders in interview after interview said it would be wrong to bring the ANC back through the back door. The people have said they don’t want the ANC.
In the days after the announcement of official results we read that EFF leader Julius Malema and other party leaders are in fact in discussions with the ANC leadership.
The EFF now seems to be open to hearing the ANC out. It has even set out a bold condition for cooperation with the ANC: Drop Jacob Zuma and we’ll partner with you.
At the same time, party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is on record saying that EFF supporters would rather enter into a coalition with the DA.
It should have been that straight-forward. At least that’s what the EFF naively thought.
These apparent contradictions can be a little discomforting for EFF supporters.
A good lesson in politics and negotiations is not to get ahead of yourself. Keep every option open.
Malema has never beaten about the bush when it comes to dealing with the ANC. Following the confirmation of results in Gauteng, he boasted that he was happy to have humbled the ANC – it was his aim.
But Malema was too hasty in saying he would not entertain a partnership with the ruling party.
Having the ANC in a weak position gives the EFF leverage. It can use the ANC’s desperation strategically, to its advantage.
The trouble now is that its about-turn places a shadow of doubt over the EFF’s credibility.
Also the confusion regarding the EFF’s approach to coalition betrays a fundamental problem the party needs to grapple with.
Although the EFF has styled itself as the voice of the marginalised poor and black people, it is decidedly a party that exists to antagonise the ANC.
So far it has done very well to wrack up so much support as to shake the ANC even in its rural strongholds in North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State. Although the ANC remains dominant, it shed some significant support and the EFF is clearly the winner.
The question is whether the EFF really wants to govern. Is the party more interested in humbling the ANC and getting rid of Zuma or in actually proving that its policy proposals are workable by governing?
For all the talk about its left-leaning radical ideology, the EFF’s proposals are really just a radical twist on the ANC’s own pro-poor policies.
It is the party of the disgruntled, those who are frustrated with the ruling party’s tardiness in delivering on the promise of a better life.
As the negotiations for coalitions continue it has become evident that the young party faces a tension between two agendas: whether it will be carried away by the obsession to get back at Zuma or whether it is really committed to realising its radical vision for society.
The question is: If Zuma were to go tomorrow would the red berets still have a reason to disrupt?
By Nompumelelo Runj