Nelson Mandela Foundation

While addressing delegates at the Democratic Alliance (DA) Congress in Gallagher Estate in Midrand, the leader of the official opposition John Steenhuisen shocked the nation when he denounced the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as “political enemy number one”. This came as a shock due to several reasons, one being the fact that the EFF is not the governing party in the country nor is it responsible for the plight that our nation finds itself in. What made this utterance more shocking is that the EFF currently polls behind the Democratic Alliance if one has to take into account results from the 2019 & 2021 elections, but Steenhuisen made it clear that they must be stopped while remaining silent on the ANC’s misgovernance.

Steenhuizen was not the first DA leader to denounce the EFF as enemy number one, he was echoing the sentiments shared by the City of Cape Town mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis earlier this year when he said the EFF must be kept out of government even if that meant the “DA forms a coalition with the ANC”, citing that the “EFF is hellbent on destroying this country”. The last few weeks have since given a glimpse of why the DA would not want to work with the EFF but other opposition parties. 

Like-minded Political Parties

Immediately after the DA Congress, the party embarked on a project of bringing ‘like-minded’ parties under an umbrella termed the ‘moonshot pact’ a phrase that was later rejected by other opposition parties. Parties that were invited include Herman Mashaba’s Action SA, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Maimane’s Build One South Africa (BOSA), the Spectrum National Party, the Freedom Front Plus, the National Freedom Party, the United Independent Movement and others. It was not a surprise that the DA decided not to invite its “enemy number 1 (EFF)” to be part of the pact.

Formation of a Multi-Party Charter for South Africa

Leaders of opposition parties met in Kempton Park to discuss governing principles if indeed they defeat the ANC and keep the EFF out of government. The session was chaired by Professor William Gumede, an associate professor at the University of Witwatersrand School of Governance. The session was likened to the 1991 Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations by the main opposition leaders who unanimously agreed to change the name of the pact to the “Multi-Party Charter for South Africa”, a name that all parties will feel ownership of. 

Among the resolutions was that all parties will independently contest next year’s general elections and, where they fell short of a majority, they will work together and not vote with the ANC nor the EFF. This was among the key issues, especially from Action SA who have expressed their distrust with the DA and accused them of flirting with the ANC. This led to all parties in attendance signing a declaration that they will work with neither the ANC nor the EFF. The DA has been under fire for its cosy relationship with the governing party from political commentators who have accused the party of wanting “to have their bread buttered on both sides.” The parties also deliberated on how they would constitute their government. Other socio-economic issues were discussed but the charter did not produce tangible solutions on how they will “fix South Africa.” 

It is without a doubt that South Africans are tired of the ANC’s misgovernance and corruption and are in search of an alternative government that has a clear plan of action to address unemployment, the energy crisis, crime and other challenges. 

In my opinion, uniting on a ticket to remove the ANC and preventing the EFF from being part of government will not cut it, that message will not inspire an unemployed young person who has been without a job for a long time. Any charter that is to stand ground has to outline how it would tackle socio-economic issues the country faces under the governing ANC. For example, voters are keen to know how the charter will fix the energy crisis, how the charter aims to address inequality poverty etc.

There Will be No Government Without Either the ANC or EFF

Considering the national numbers from the 2021 local election results, all the parties who thus far have agreed to form part of the Multi-Party Charter average around 35%. Even if the parties in the pact were to form a minority government with their numbers, they would still fall short of the governing ANC which secured 47% in 2021 and is estimated to be around 42% according to recent representative polls by IPSOS. Though we cannot fully rely on these predictions, we can be assured that the ANC will poll lower than 50% which would force it to also look for coalition partners. The EFF received just over 10% in 2021 and currently polls around 12% for next year’s national elections. These numbers would surely boost the Multi-Party Charter towards the required 50+1% or at least form a minority government. The EFF’s Commander in Chief, Julius Malema, while addressing the media, stated that even if the EFF was invited to join the Multi-Party Charter, the party would reject the invite citing that the pact Charter is organised by the Oppenheimers. 

With that said, it is difficult to imagine that the Charter can poll over 50% next year unless the Charter changes its stance on the EFF or the ANC of which in the past the leader of the DA, Steenhuisen, conceded that they would work with ‘reformists’ from the ANC.

These upcoming elections have been described as fundamental and critical for the future of South Africa, with some parties describing 2024 as “our 1994”. It is important that Civil Society structures begin creating effective platforms to contribute to this pivotal election. All things considered, if we do not change course, we will only have ourselves to blame.