A coalition government anchored by the DA is a recipe to rescue South Africa

18 Oct 2023 in News

Over the past week, I joined fellow leaders in the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa on a study tour to Germany. The tour exposed opposition party leaders looking to unseat the ANC in next year’s election to examples of how to make multi-party governments work. After a week spent interacting with leaders from across the political spectrum, it is clear to me that few countries more powerfully disprove the myth that coalition governments cannot work, than Germany.

Spending time in a country that was transformed into an economic powerhouse by successive coalition governments following the devastation of the Second World War has inspired me about the future of South Africa. Despite the many catastrophes visited upon us by the ANC, I return from Germany with renewed conviction that a national coalition government anchored by the DA will unleash a wave of prosperity.

To see why, please join me in casting your mind forward just a few months.

It is two weeks after the 2024 election, where the ANC lost its majority in various provinces and at national level for the first time. The eyes of the world are again upon South Africa, as we inaugurate our first post-ANC national government. Replacing the stale, tired and worn-out ANC, is a fresh and energetic Charter government with the DA at its heart, brimming with new solutions to South Africa’s problems.

This change in government will send markets soaring. Just this past week, financial analyst Magnus Heystek described the flood of positive sentiment that will follow such a change in government. Responding on X to a question on whether a different government could restore confidence in our economy, Heystek wrote that “If a DA-controlled government comes into power, [we could] see a massive return of foreigners and their capital. The rand will rocket and property prices [will] boom.”

He is absolutely right. As economists often remind us, the investment strike we are currently experiencing is not due to weak underlying fundamentals. Quite the contrary: South Africa’s economic fundamentals remain resilient, with deep capital markets, a high degree of global integration, and a modern financial sector. The reason these fundamental strengths are not being harnessed, is because investors have lost all confidence that the ANC can ever govern this country effectively.

But that sentiment will change overnight when the DA comes into power. Investors – both local and domestic – will take one look at the DA’s track record in places like Cape Town, the Western Cape, Midvaal and uMngeni, and conclude that better governance which welcomes and safeguards investment, has arrived. They will only need to read the DA’s policy suite and the manifesto we are currently finalising, to gain the necessary confidence that a Charter government anchored by the DA will embrace the private sector and job-creating economic growth. Suddenly, our economy’s strong underlying fundamentals will again come into its own.

This newfound confidence will be well-placed. As Germany demonstrates, political stability and economic prosperity is entirely attainable under a multi-party government when it is anchored by a big, stable party.

Germany emerged from the Second World War in 1945 as a country in tatters. Its economic and physical infrastructure was destroyed. Millions of people were dead. Democracy and its governing institutions had been repurposed to suit the murderous aims of the Nazi dictatorship. It limped into a new world under the Cold War, which physically divided the country into two parts. The West became a modern liberal democracy, while the East became a communist vassal state of the Soviet Union.

Over the ensuing decades, a succession of coalition government not only rebuilt West Germany, but turned it into the preeminent economic powerhouse of Europe. Between 1950 and 1967, West Germany achieved average annual GDP of 8% per year, reaching as high as 12% in some years. By the time the country was reunited in 1990, West Germany was over three-times richer than East Germany, which had been suffocated under communist rule.

In many ways, the story of West and East Germany foreshadow how the story of South Africa will unfold if we replace the ANC with a new government, anchored by the DA, in 2024. Thirty years of ANC rule has subjected our country to a corrupt and centralised economic model not entirely dissimilar to the one followed by East Germany. By contrast, a coalition that features the DA as the anchor tenant, will follow a road closer to that tread by West Germany through clean and accountable government that enables private sector growth.

The tale of Germany and the coalition governments that built it, gives South Africans reasons for hope. However, there is one very important pre-condition that became clear on the study tour: Germany’s coalitions work because they are anchored by big, stable parties. Strikingly, every single coalition government Germany has ever had – whether at local, regional or national level – has been  anchored by one of only two big parties: the Social Democrats (SPD) or the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU).

This insight – that coalitions are only stable and effective when they are not fragmented and instead built around a single strong anchor party – is confirmed by our experience back home. Coalitions in South Africa have only struggled when they are fragmented, such as in Johannesburg, where the 2021 local elections fragmented the council into no less than 18 different parties. I would venture to say that, if Germany’s post-war coalitions had been as fragmented as the Johannesburg city council is today, the country would not have become the embodiment of stability and prosperity we know today.

If you are looking for the secret of Germany’s coalition success, it is this: coalitions work when they are not fragmented into dozens of tiny parties. Instead, Germany’s successful coalitions are always anchored by one big party. The implication for South Africa is clear. If we want coalitions to work for us like it worked for Germany, we must ensure that the DA – as the only party with the people, the resources, and the experience necessary to govern – becomes the big, stable party that anchors the coalition alternative.

It may sound strange, but seeing this pattern play out in both Germany and at home, I was reminded of a shopping centre. The first thing any developer does when designing a new shopping centre, is to look for a big, stable anchor tenant, such as a well-known supermarket chain. This anchor tenant provides the centripetal stability, and attracts the footfall, that also enables smaller tenants to contribute effectively to the overall success of the shopping centre.

As Charter leaders return from Germany, it is clear to me that the DA’s mission in the 2024 election must be to become the strong anchor tenant for South Africa’s first national coalition government. If voters come out in their numbers to enable the DA to anchor this coalition, our country’s first post-ANC government will be one that not only draws on the contributions of diverse parties and views, but also has the big, stable anchor tenant that is so essential to the stability of any multi-party government.

As German history vividly demonstrates, a national coalition government anchored by a big and strong DA, is a recipe to rescue South Africa.

John Steenhuisen

Be part of the mission to rescue South Africa, get help registering to vote at check.da.org.za