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The big story: The coalitions edition

The local government elections are done, and most of you probably don’t yet know who is running your city or town. That’s because more than a quarter of all municipalities were hung with no clear majority – a first in our democratic history. Parties have been forced to the negotiating table to work out power-sharing deals. That’s why so much election news may be confusing: no announcements about clear winners, just lots of rumours and conflicting reports about who is talking to whom. 

There will be more clarity after 23 November, the deadline parties have been given to form power-sharing agreements. We will then tell you what’s been finalised and what to make of it all. 

For now, here’s a snapshot of a few metros:

Johannesburg:

Parties: ANC: 33.6%, DA:26.14%, ActionSA: 16.05%, EFF: 10.63%

Joburg voters aren’t impressed. The ANC shrank by over 10 percentage points since the last election and the DA by over 12! The EFF also shrank slightly, while Joburgers seem to remember their former mayor Herman Mashaba fondly, giving him potential kingmaker status. Who will govern the city of gold? No two parties have enough to do so together, except the DA and ANC, which looks like a no-go. Party chair Helen Zille was keen on the idea but leader John Steenhuisen has since scuppered it. 

They’re not the only ones. Mashaba says he won’t partner with the ANC but is open to partnering with his ex-party, the DA, on certain conditions. A DA-ActionSA coalition in Joburg would still fall about 8% short of a majority and would have to work with smaller parties, including the EFF, which the DA has sworn not to do. 

Cape Town

Parties: DA: 58.22%, ANC: 18.63%, EFF: 4.13%, GOOD: 3.81%

The DA had better watch out. It won the city it’s ruled for years, but fell sharply from its previously comfortable majority of 66.61%. That kind of drop should be a warning sign: the ANC saw a similar dip before losing outright control in other metros. The ANC also shrank from 24.36% while Patricia De Lille’s GOOD clearly ate into the DA’s support – a similar story to Johannesburg, where a former DA leader of colour left acrimoniously and went on to take votes from the blue party, which has battled with issues of race for some time. GOOD is walking away from coalitions completely, saying constructive opposition is better than coalitions when trying to run a ward.

Tshwane/Pretoria: 

Parties:  ANC: 34.62%, DA: 32.03%, EFF: 10.69%, Action SA: 8.64%

The only two-party coalition that would work in Tshwane is between the DA and the ANC. If this doesn’t happen, it will take at least a three-party coalition to rule the Tshwane metro, with the EFF, FF+ and ActionSA — very possibly all three — likely to play a significant role in what happens next, TimesLive is reporting. 

So, the game is on for these parties and we’ll see who actually has South Africa’s interests at heart. As columnist Justice Malala points out: “The people of SA have given no party a clear mandate to govern. The message is clear: have some humility, introspect, and work with others.”

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 November 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.

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