Wednesday, 03 November 2021

Pretoria: With several councils not producing an outright winner in the 2021 Local Government Elections, coalition councils formed will have to be anchored in workable agreements if they are to function optimally, says an analyst.

Speaking to SAnews as results continued to come in, Professor Susan Booysen, research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, said the agreements needed to be founded on principles, programmes and values.

Election results (with 69% of votes counted as at 12.35pm) indicated that of the 111 councils that had concluded tallying votes, 36 were hung. Only 29 councils required coalitions after the 2016 municipal elections.

“Such agreements would have to be anchored in firm coalition agreements between the parties [and] must be fully made public because there is great cynicism in local government among citizens.

“Citizens and voters who voted for those parties need to know that those parties are not acting contrary to the reason they voted for those parties. That’s very important,” said Booysen.

For coalitions to work, she said councils would adopt legislative pieces that were not binding on any of the parties involved.

The first could see councils opt for a committee executive system (CES) instead of the more commonly used mayoral committee system (MCS).

“What I really like about the CES is that it’s a proportional system. It makes the executive system as proportional as the council…” said Booysen.

Booysen said the system would be a more democratic option.

“They cannot make backroom deals with one seat or two seats… encouraging patronage and corruption in the process.”

She emphasised that coalitions could work in South Africa, saying they have proven a success in numerous parts of the world. However, she said, affected parties would have to understand the importance of putting aside political differences and focus on effective governance and service provision.

“That is where political parties are prepared to put the elections behind them – lost or won – and they focus on the joint responsibility to do sound, good governance. There are many examples around the world… where it does work,” she said.

The main impediment of hung municipalities being functional, Booysen said, was political party culture. She said there were some political parties that think that “if they did not win in the election, they can then influence come coalition”.

“They can get the mayoral chains, gain patronage and drive provision and status by forming coalitions, not by winning the majority.

“Some of the smaller parties we see coming up now aspire to get three seats so they can put down their demands and not policy concession or delivering to communities…” Booysen said.