There is an alternative to troublesome coalitions between political parties, which often have significantly different political views and goals – and it is already allowed for in law.
“In numerous municipalities … no party was able to achieve more than 50% of the vote, thus triggering an intense and potentially heated negotiation with regard to possible coalition governments,” said Michael Evans, partner and head of public law at Webber Wentzel.
The Local Government: Municipal Structures Act provides for two types of government at a municipal level.
The first has been employed by almost all municipalities over the past couple of decades: the executive mayoral system. It is a system where the executive mayor is extremely powerful. However, the Act offers an alternative system geared towards cooperation between political parties and service delivery.
This is the collective executive system.
In terms of this system, the mayor largely plays a ceremonial role. Power does not lie in the hands of the mayor, but the executive committee.
The Act provides that the executive committee must be composed in such a way that parties and interests are represented in the executive committee in substantially the same proportion.
A council can decide on an alternative mechanism, but that mechanism must still comply with the requirements in Section 160(8) of the constitution which stipulates different parties must be “fairly represented” on the executive committee, said Evans.
He believes the collective executive system will inevitably trigger a more cooperative approach when it comes to service delivery.
“All the major parties in a council will be represented on the executive committee,” says Evans.
“They will meet regularly and be forced to work together. That assists in depoliticising the council and allowing the collective leadership to focus on service delivery, which should be an uncontentious agenda for all political parties.
“In hung councils there will no longer be a governing party and opposition benches because the main parties will all be represented in the leadership structure.”
For example, if one party got 40% of the vote, another 30%, another 20% and another 10%, a 10-person executive committee would be represented on a four, three, two, one basis by those leading parties (assuming they adopt a strict proportional model).