Tshwane upheaval shows voting DA is the best defence against the ANC-EFF

10 Mar 2023 in News

The political upheaval in Tshwane has prompted doubt about whether coalitions can work. They can. There are many examples of stable coalitions in South Africa that successfully deliver services to residents. The real questions to ask are: What can be done to give coalitions the best chance of success and how can we best defend against the ANC-EFF?

Successful coalitions

The DA is part of 24 coalition governments around the country. Most of these are functional, stable, and delivering to residents. They easily outperform the average ANC-led municipality.

Two key factors driving their stability and success are size and core values. Coalitions work best when there are just two or three parties involved, and when those parties share the same core values, even if they differ markedly on other issues.

In Langeberg Municipality, for example, the DA is in coalition with the FF+. Although the parties differ on many issues, we agree on core “non-negotiable” issues such as zero tolerance of corruption, public appointments on merit, and the importance of making it as easy as possible for businesses to thrive and create jobs.

Cape Agulhas Municipality, another DA-led coalition, was recently rated the best local municipality in the country by Good Governance Africa on the Governance Performance Index.

Larger coalitions can also be successful. In 2006, a 7-party DA-led coalition took control of Cape Town from the ANC and was able to deliver enough to residents to convince them to give the DA a full majority in the Western Cape in 2009 and in Cape Town in 2011, and residents haven’t looked back.


Last week’s vote for a new Tshwane mayor should have been a straightforward affair, with the DA’s excellent mayoral candidate Cilliers Brink being voted as mayor since the DA and its coalition partners have an outright majority there.

Instead, Cope’s Dr Murunwa Makwarela was elected by an ANC-EFF coalition, even though Cope only won 0,2% of the vote in the 2021 local election, getting just one seat in the 214-seat council. This is clearly a gross subversion of democracy, and not what the voters of Tshwane voted for.

It came about because seven councillors of the DA-led multi-party coalition betrayed their voters and helped install this ANC-EFF puppet mayor who has subsequently been disqualified because he is an unrehabilitated insolvent.

Clearly, these individuals were bribed by the ANC-EFF coalition, which is desperate to win back control of the Gauteng metros so that patronage and corruption can continue unabated. (Indeed, the very first thing that the ANC-EFF coalition did in Johannesburg, which followed a similar path in January, was to cancel the investigations that were underway into corrupt contracts in the metro.)

No depths too low

Without the patronage opportunities that come from running these huge metros with their multi-billion-rand budgets, ANC support withers. This has happened in the Western Cape, where ANC support stands at a measly 18%, with no hope of a rebound.

The ANC has shown it will go to any lengths to stay in power if it can. This includes unlawfully dissolving Tshwane’s municipal council in 2020 and placing the city under provincial administration. During the seven months it took for the DA to challenge the illegality of this coup in court, the City was plundered, going from an operating surplus under the DA to a R4.3 billion deficit. The damage done during those seven months is yet to be fully repaired.

So no-one should be surprised that the ANC is willing to work with the EFF, whose ruinous policies would greatly accelerate South Africa’s slide to a failed state. And no-one should be surprised that this coalition of corruption will stoop to bribing smaller parties and councillors to switch allegiances in return for large rewards.

Best defence

The DA is the most effective bulwark against an ANC-EFF coalition. Weakening the opposition by fragmenting the vote among a multitude of smaller parties is simply a bad strategy at a time when voters need to use their votes pragmatically to avoid state failure.

The most powerful strategy is to unite behind the DA as the biggest opposition party and the only party with a proven track record of clean, competent government (more evidence for which appeared last week when StatsSA’s employment numbers showed that 99% of all new jobs created in Q4 of 2022 were created in the Western Cape – 167 000 out of 169 000 – while the eight ANC-run provinces together contributed a net total of just 1%).

A highly fragmented vote puts lots of small parties in council, leading to large, unstable coalitions. Joburg, for example, has 18 parties in council out of the 56 parties and several independents that were on the ballot paper. The 10-party DA-led coalition that ran Johannesburg after the 2021 local elections until the ANC and EFF went into coalition with each other was a cumbersome entity, with simply too many hands on the steering wheel.

Legislation to stabilise coalitions

The solution is not just to educate voters about the dangers of voting for tiny parties. It is also to introduce legislation to stabilise coalitions.

Electoral systems based on pure proportional representation, such as South Africa’s, tend naturally towards a highly fragmented vote, especially in a society as diverse as ours. The only reason this has taken so long to become apparent is that the ANC enjoyed three decades of unnaturally high support for a political party.

Other countries with pure proportional representation have passed legislation to stabilise coalitions. Learning from their experience, the DA is proposing electoral thresholds of 1-2% so that parties must obtain a certain minimum number of votes before they are able to be considered for seat calculations. Many countries use electoral thresholds to stabilise coalitions, including Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Romania and Ukraine.

Furthermore, we propose a legal requirement that coalition agreements are drawn up and published clearly setting out the principles that partners must adhere to, including the conflict resolution procedures that must be followed if disagreement arises. South Africa should establish a coalition ombudsman – a politically independent individual of high standing such as a retired judge – to impartially administer these agreements and ensure that coalition partners stay true to them.

To enable some of these changes, the DA has drafted three Private Members Bills which are already with Parliamentary Legal Services for editing and certification. Once President Ramaphosa has signed the Electoral Amendment Bill, we will draft amendments to it too.


Those who want to rescue the country from the ruinous policies and behaviour of the ANC and EFF need to unite behind the DA and its ideas for stabilising coalitions.