Opposition parties sign on the dotted line 

A group of South African opposition parties have signed a coalition pact ahead of next year’s elections and promised the electorate an “alternative government”. 

Seven political parties signed an agreement ahead of the 2024 national election, they pledged to work together to unseat the African National Congress (ANC) and keep the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) out of power. 

Party leaders labelled the two-day negotiations held at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park a “great success” as it resulted in the signing of a common declaration labelled the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.  

This pre-emptive formation hopes to avoid the chaos seen in municipal coalitions across the country. 

“If we want to unseat the ANC as a government then there is no other option because there is no single opposition party who on their own will get a majority [of the vote]… we must ensure that we work together [so] that we have a stable coalition,” said Vryheidsfront (VF+) leader Dr Pieter Groenewald. 

The DA, IFP, VF+, ActionSA, Independent South African National Organisation (Isanco), United Independent Movement (UIM) and the Spectrum National Party (SNP) agree that this, “alternative government” as IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa put it, would be one that promotes a free-market economy, decentralised power and minimal government interference in business.  

Hlabisa argued that the bloc would be decisive on matters of “crime, unemployment, loadshedding…” because the “current government has failed us”. 

No red and yellow here 

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba signing his party’s declaration of intent to join the multi-party charter next to independent chairperson William Gumede as Emperors Palace on August 17, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

Parties are open to broadening the pool of partners in the months to come if they share their governing priorities and values. 

Leader of ActionSA Herman Mashaba said that they ruled out any possible working agreements with the third largest party, the EFF because of fundamental ideological differences as they are a party who are self-described as following a Marxist-Leninist school of thought. 

When asked if this agreement would push the ANC and EFF to form a coalition agreement of their own, parties shrugged it off, and Mashaba said, “they can do what they want”. 

In response, EFF spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys told Wits Vuvuzela that the issues parties want to solve (like unemployment and poverty) are the same, however, their approaches are fundamentally and ideologically different. “We are unapologetically a leftist party [and are] willing to work with parties who would implement similar ideological policies,” said Mathys. 

Who rules the roost? 

The bloc is in agreement that power would be shared, relative to the proportion of votes counted. The party with the most votes was promised the position of deputy president.  

But these candidates have not yet been chosen, Hlabisa said that deciding on a candidate before the elections would “give an unfair advantage to that party.” 

Given the highly publicised squabbles amongst party leaders, a professor at the Wits School of Governance and independent chairperson of the convention, William Gumede, said that “[party leaders must] rise above petty squabbles, egos and every decision they make must be in the public interest.”   

The ANC lost its overall majority for the first time in the country’s democratic history in the 2021 municipal elections, which gave rise to the idea that no political party will achieve an outright majority alone to govern, following 2024’s elections. 

Parties argued that by setting the terms now (should they come to power) they are not left scrambling in the 14 days after the elections to form a united government. 

FEATURED IMAGE: A collage of all of the party leaders of the multi-party charter during the closing remarks of the two-day conference at Emperors Palace on August 17, 2023. Photos: Seth Thorne

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FEATURED IMAGE: Screengrab from the explainer video. Photo: Seth Thorne

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FEATURED: The executive mayor Kabelo Gwamanda reading his oath during the process of being sworn in. Photo: Seth Thorne

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WITH GALLERY: Kabelo Gwamanda elected as Joburg mayor 

After nearly two weeks without one, Joburg has its fifth mayor in just 18 months. 

Al Jama-ah’s Kabelo Gwamanda has been voted in as Johannesburg’s new executive mayor by councillors in a secret ballot at the City Council sitting on May 5, 2023. 

Out of the 266 ballots cast Gwamanda received 139 votes, while the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Johannesburg caucus leader Mpho Phalatse got 68 votes and ActionSA’s Gauteng chairperson Funzi Ngobeni, got 59 votes. 

This was the council’s fifth attempt at voting in a mayor since the resignation of Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad on April 24. A sitting on Tuesday, May 3 was postponed due to squabbles amongst coalition partners.  

Messy horse trading  

Failed negotiations among those in the former ‘multi-party coalition,’ saw the DA unable to come to an agreement with ActionSA, IFP, VF+, ACDP, UIM and PA.  

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela DA Johannesburg caucus leader Mpho Phalatse said that the reason negotiations failed is because the DA could not come to terms with the proposition by the Patriotic Alliance (PA) to nominate Kenny Kunene as mayor. “[We] could not fathom how such could be allowed,” she said. 

The PA, the swing vote in council, then put their weight behind Gwamanda, alongside the ANC, EFF, Al Jama-ah, AIC, AHC, ATM, Good, PAC, Cope and APC. In return, Kenny Kunene received an executive position and now has control over the city’s transport portfolio. 

Gwamanda labels this coalition as “one of national unity” which will continue to “prioritize service delivery,” arguing that regime change in the city will not negatively impact service delivery. 

Former mayor Thapelo Amad said that the election of his Al Jama-ah colleague is a good thing for the city, stating that “the city is in capable hands”.  

ActionSA mayoral candidate Funzi Ngobeni says that his party is happy with the working relationship with the ACDP, IFP, UIM and VF+, however it is “unfortunate that we could not get DA on board.” He says that the aims of the partners now are to be “a constructive opposition”.  

FEATURED: IEC officials alongside political party representatives counting the secret ballot votes at the Joburg City Council on May 5, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

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