Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
2 minute read
4 Nov 2021
5:24 am

The problem with coalition governments? They’re based on politics

Brian Sokutu

Unhappiness with the quality of service – a message of protest against those in power – has led to many not voting.

Action SA leader Herman Mashaba addressing media at the IEC ROC in Pretoria, 3 November 2021. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The local government polls have come and gone, with SA’s future not looking rosy on the municipal front – the most important sphere of government.

Reeling from continued bouts of load shedding, potholes, sewage spills and water shortages – among other complaints – we are seemingly back to square one.

With millions of South Africans having not turned up to vote for leaders of their choice to take them out of the socioeconomic quagmire, there is likely to be horse-trading, leading to coalition governments at local level in the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros.

The problem with coalition governments is they’re not based on deliverables promised to voters, but politics – not what you voted for.

How do you hold a coalition government to account, when there is a mismatch in comparing what was promised and what you ultimately end up with?

What makes coalition governments unstable are the compromises, the long time it takes to make decisions and party leaders taking time to cement strong relationships. All this while Rome is burning.

ALSO READ: ANC will have to wait 300 years for coalition with ActionSA – Mashaba

Unhappiness with the quality of service – a message of protest against those in power – has led to many not voting. Also throwing a spanner in the works is another word we have got used to: tender.

In most municipalities, to deliver on the simplest much-needed services – fix potholes, repair run-down roads and replace old infrastructure – officials find it hard to do what has to be done without there being a tender.

As we have heard from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, these are normally awarded to cronies and politically connected individuals. In some instances, such tenders have turned ugly – deadly battlegrounds for tenderpreneurs in some provinces – with disgruntled bidders resorting to assassinations to eliminate serious competitors.

Those that win lucrative tenders are quick to show off their loot – expensive cars, mansions and a lavish lifestyle – with public funds not going to priority services to communities. This phenomenon has led to non-service delivery, with millions of frustrated South Africans not turning up to cast their vote.

A growing voter apathy in successive elections, simply puts us at the mercy of yesterday’s opponents, becoming tomorrow’s comrades – forging ahead with an uneasy governing of metros without an outright winner.

The National Development Plan (NDP) is one of the dynamic documents on priorities to be addressed in SA. But the NDP has been gathering dust, because we are only good at policy formulation and not implementation.

While in 2016, voter turnout slightly improved from 57.6% in 2011 to 58%, it dropped by an astounding 12% to 46% this year – a matter many analysts have pointed to frustration with poor service delivery.

North-West University political analyst Professor André Duvenhage said: “People had expectations about democracy and, at the moment, the socioeconomic conditions are deteriorating.”

Despite the seemingly ill-prepared Electoral Commission of South Africa presiding over some glaring weaknesses in the voting system, we are looking forward to the poll results.