The marriage of convenience between the DA and the EFF, based on their common hatred for the ANC, was doomed to fail because the two parties are oil and water, writes KHALID SAYED
Coalition politics make for uncomfortable bedfellows.
In recent history, we have had the disastrous non-starter of a merger between Agang and the Democratic Alliance. While sealed with a public kiss between Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Helen Zille in public display packaged for the front pages of our newspapers, the marriage did not get out of the starting blocks and there was no honeymoon to speak of.
Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats found a political home in the DA, but that relationship in recent years has been unravelling and many believe De Lille’s political future and those of her former ID colleagues is nearing a close.
The former Nats incorporated into the DA still wield immense power, albeit of a more furtive nature, and placing a black face at the helm has done little to dispel it as a one-demographic party in terms of its objectives and in some instances its treatment of poor, black people – think removals in the Western Cape, from Blikkiesdorp to Wolwerivier.
Enter left of stage, the Economic Freedom Fighters with their nationalistic vitriol and grandstanding in public. Great theatre to the watching matches, kingmakers in some municipalities, but woeful in terms of having a track record of governance anywhere.
Uneasy alliances in three metros between the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters are fraying at the edges and look like imploding.
It is hardly surprising given that they speak two different political languages altogether – the EFF preaching from a nationalist, populist-based dogma, espousing the virtues of nationalising land and mines, while the DA continues to be hampered by its inability to convince itself and especially the majority of black people that it has shrugged off the influence of the NP brigade within its ranks.
The DA is also a supporter of entrenched capital and anti- the nationalisation of land and of mines. So why is the EFF so strident and passionate about its objectives for the country, getting into bed with the DA, which it is diametrically opposed to on virtually every aspect of its vision for South Africa?
Even the terms of their agreement or alliance seem to be a quagmire of double-speak. In August Malema was quoted in the media as saying that his party could no longer guarantee that it will vote with the Democratic Alliance.
“We are not in a coalition with the DA, we have never been in a coalition with the DA. We are in a coalition with our people. If you respect our people, you will get our votes. You ill-treat our people, you disrespect them, you look down on them because you think you are a super political party, we will teach you a lesson. We don’t care about these metros; whether the ANC takes them, whether the DA takes them, it’s none of our business. We will from time to time vote based on issues on the table [but] our vote for the DA is no longer guaranteed,” Malema was quoted as saying
Malema added that if the ANC put a solid proposal on the table, the EFF would vote for it. Despite being characterised as a “former disgruntled ANC Youth League leader”, the noise that there is the possibility of Malema and his red-overall-clad brigade rejoining the ANC ranks, post the ANC’s elective conference in December, is growing louder.
But back to the double-speak. A few days before Malema’s non-committal to the DA, the blue party’s leader Mmusi Maimane said: Coalitions are like a marriage, you have a disagreement on one issue and that is the end of the marriage; it can’t be, you must engage. That is why we are open for dialogue, that’s why we are calling for dialogue. I think we will continue to work, this is not an insurmountable issue, we will continue to work; we will continue delivering to the people,” Maimane said.
Malema’s retort was that there never was a marriage. This is convenient, given Malema and the EFF’s public vitriol against the ANC which has ruled it out of any coalitions, in the near future at least.
The question then is this: can the EFF be taken seriously to govern?
It has certainly captured the imagination as a brand – red overalls in Parliament to give it a worker aesthetic; heckling President Jacob Zuma at every turn and getting into a space where they are regarded as saying in Parliament what the ordinary man on the streets thinks.
But how does all this add up to being able to govern and deliver services? It does not. The EFF, by entering into a coalition in three metros with the DA, was sadly mistaken that it would have equal or any say in the allocation of budgets or who gets to fill mayor, deputy mayor and other key positions in those municipalities.
You cannot have effective governance when your coalition is comprised of two political parties who hold completely different views on the economy and the citizenry. It is unsurprising that the coalition has been fraught with suspicion, public and private spats and a non-commitment from Malema.
Arch-nationalists and arch-capitalists do not make for any type of marriage, nor can you base a successful relationship on the basis of your hatred for another party, in this case, the ANC.
The EFF has sold out its own party’s ethos in a bid to get a foothold in local government. In its haste, it has lost ground to the DA and will surely become a footnote at the next general elections. A party which is willing to compromise what it stands for is a party without a future.
Sayed is Western Cape Provincial Chairperson of the ANC Youth League