By Zukile Majova
It is no longer an exaggeration to say South Africa’s opposition parties are failing the voters.
As a collective, the political opposition now controls almost 55% of the vote in the country.
But what have they done with it?
In the latest elections – the 2021 local government elections – the ruling party won 45.59% of the vote, leaving the opposition block with 54%.
A well-coordinated opposition would have used this power given to it by the electorate to take over all the 66 municipalities that were left hung with no party securing a clear majority.
The councils included lucrative metros, where the opposition would have an opportunity to prove that they could govern better than the ANC.
The metros included Nelson Mandela Bay, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg, with a collective budget of over R200 billion.
Disunity in the opposition benches and fragmentation of the opposition vote continues to frustrate the emergence of a strong opposition truly capable of being an alternative government to the ANC.
Results of the last national general elections show that the country now has at least 43 political parties with less than 1% of the national vote.
This plays into Helen Zille’s theory that a vote for smaller parties is a wasted vote.
Differences among the main five opposition parties – DA, EFF, IFP, ActionsSA and FF-plus – have made it impossible for the opposition to put together reliable coalition governments, especially in the metros.
But are these policy differences?
Since the polls two years ago, the ANC-led coalition has taken control of eThekwini and Johannesburg, has collapsed the DA-led coalition in Tshwane and is now gunning for Ekurhuleni.
Power struggles in the DA, driven largely by the party’s powerful control freak, “Madam Zille”, have frustrated possible coalitions in some of the hung municipalities.
For instance, in Johannesburg, former DA mayor Dr Mpho Phalatse defeated the ANC’s clumsiness through the courts and retained her mayoral chain in a tough battle for the city.
But her efforts to unite opposition parties under one banner were crushed by Zille’s refusal to work with the EFF.
The alternative was to give the power back to the ANC, which won 33.6% of the vote.
In this case the opposition had over 66% of the vote but could not secure a R85 billion council representing over six million people.
At national level the opposition block, which has 42,5% of the 400-seat National Assembly, has a very real chance of pulling the ANC below 50% in next year’s elections.
The ANC is also at risk of failing to secure a clear victory in provinces like Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
But will the opposition parties do something with all this advantage?
Or will their egos get in the way again?
Pictured above: John Steenhuisen and Helen Zille