Coalition governance challenges in post-2024 South Africa

coalition governance
05 Jul 2024

Legal framework and provincial challenges

South Africa’s legal structure allows provincial governments to dissolve local government councils if they fail to fulfil their mandates. However, complications arise when such issues occur at the provincial level.

Post-election political landscape

The political landscape in South Africa shifted dramatically after the 2024 elections, with the ANC failing to secure a majority and no single party winning over 50% of the vote in key provinces like Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. This situation has led to the formation of the ANC-led Government of National Unity (GNU), which, while not labelled as a coalition, operates on similar principles, including a foundational document that all parties must sign.

Challenges in coalition governance

The GNU has elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the national leader and is working to establish provincial leadership. However, negotiations for cabinet and executive positions have encountered obstacles, raising concerns about the stability of these agreements. Legal experts warn that a collapse of these coalitions could have severe economic and governance consequences, especially for impoverished communities.

Legal precedents and local government

At the local level, coalition breakdowns often lead to political rather than legal repercussions, although legal disputes have occurred, as seen in the City of Tshwane case. Here, the Constitutional Court reviewed the provincial executive’s decision to dissolve the council under section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution, which allows intervention if a municipality fails to fulfil its obligations.

The court concluded that the dissolution was unjustified, emphasising cooperative governance and appropriate, proportional interventions. This judgment provides guidance for national intervention in provincial administration under section 100 of the Constitution, which lacks a dissolution clause, highlighting the difference between municipal and provincial interventions.

National and provincial coalition impacts

The formation of co-governing agreements at national and provincial levels, especially in provinces without a clear majority, is expected to influence coalition dynamics in municipal councils.

Transparency and accountability

To ensure effective coalition governance, experts stress the need for increased transparency in coalition negotiations and agreements. Public scrutiny is crucial for holding elected representatives accountable.

Navigating coalition complexities

Adhering to constitutional principles is vital for navigating the complexities of coalition governance in South Africa. By fostering transparency and accountability, the country can ensure stable and effective service delivery, benefiting all citizens and maintaining democratic processes.

Article sourced from SchoemanLaw Inc.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Johan de Lange

Johan De Lange graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Stellenbosch University in 2020. In 2023, he commenced his professional career by joining SchoemanLaw Incorporated as a Professional Assistant.... Read more about Johan de Lange

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