Worsening relations between the Democratic Alliance and smaller opposition parties are threatening the party’s hopes of assuming power nationally in 2019 by forming a coalition government.
On Tuesday, when the DA brought a motion to dissolve Parliament, its opposition allies would not support it. The smaller opposition parties accused the DA of being arrogant for bringing the motion without consulting them. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu asked the DA: “Who gave you the power to dissolve Parliament?”
Should the cracks in the opposition alliance widen, it could impede the opposition’s ability to unite against the ANC and win national office.
EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee laid much of the blame for the turbulent state of the opposition on the DA’s shoulders. He said the official opposition has proven itself unwilling to negotiate in good faith and was using smaller parties.
“We gave them Tshwane and Johannesburg and we never asked for anything. Do you think it was in good faith that they shut us out in Nelson Mandela Bay?” Gardee said. “It does appear that we are dealing with a partner in government who’s engaging in bad faith.”
The EFF recently vowed to boycott DA-led councils after the removal of the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM’s) Mongameli Bobani as Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor.
Gardee’s criticism was partly echoed by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, who said the DA appeared to have a false sense of superiority. “The arrogance of power has made them power-hungry, yet they don’t have power. They think they have power but they don’t.”
The UDM is challenging the council’s decision to remove Bobani as deputy mayor, who has been accused of corruption and conspiring with the ANC. Holomisa said the UDM would not leave the coalition. “We will stay there and continue to educate them.”
DA-led coalition municipalities have faced votes of no confidence in Mogale City and, most recently, Johannesburg.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba announced on Thursday that the city council would vote in three week’s time on a motion of no confidence brought against him by the ANC.
The DA’s James Selfe said, although the parties were within their rights to question decisions made in municipalities where they had agreements with the DA, they were not partners at a national level, so it did not warrant their criticism of the DA’s motion to dissolve Parliament. “It may well be the case that they feel that way but the problem is, while we are in coalition in certain municipalities, there is no coalition in the National Assembly at the moment,” Selfe said. “And, until such time as we run government together, each of the parties have a right to campaign their own way for their own objective.”
An Ipsos survey found that national support for the ANC would probably be less than 50% if an early election was held. But the survey also showed that the ANC’s losses would not translate into more votes for the DA, which was also projected to suffer losses.
In a previous interview with the Mail & Guardian, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the only option to overthrow the ANC would be by the formation of a coalition government.
As the official opposition, that government would have the DA at its helm. But unity among the opposition parties could clash with individual ambitions. The EFF, for example, said it had its sights set on a majority win of 51% in 2019 and taking power.
Failing this, Gardee said there was no guarantee that the EFF would form a coalition with any other party. In fact, the EFF had not ruled out the possibility of giving its vote to the ANC in 2019, provided its terms were met.
“At our own terms, we will participate in what we call a government of national unity, where we will have to reunite the nation from the mess that the ANC created,” Gardee said. “At our own terms. If the ANC doesn’t accept our terms and the DA doesn’t accept the terms, then they will have to co-govern.”
Holomisa said the prospect of a coalition government in 2019 could not be discussed without first addressing the laws and policies that made provision for a national coalition and finding ways of ensuring that smaller parties would not be disadvantaged.
Selfe said the party was still optimistic about the prospect of a national coalition, adding: “There is much more at stake and, if we want to rescue South Africa from the dreadful situation we are in at the moment, we are all going to have swallow hard and accept things that we ordinarily may not have.”