SUNDAY TIMES - DA, EFF in 'secret talks' to beat ANC in local poll
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Sunday Times News By JAN-JAN JOUBERT, 2016-01-31

DA, EFF in 'secret talks' to beat ANC in local poll

DA flag.
Image: Gallo Images

Several opposition parties are in initial, informal discussions to create a united front to unseat the ANC in as many municipalities as possible in this year's local government elections.

Leading figures in four opposition parties, including the DA and EFF, confirmed the talks to the Sunday Times.

However, the United Democratic Movement - which may end up being the kingmaker in Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay metro - is not part of the discussions. "No one has contacted us about any discussions. We will decide on coalitions after the election," said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

EFF leader Julius Malema this week publicly called for opposition coalitions, and DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme confirmed yesterday that DA leader Mmusi Maimane had had "some very informal discussions with other party leaders about this [coalitions]".

Such a front will be based on practical solutions aimed at "stopping the rot" in municipal basic services that has ignited protests throughout the country. Its extent and structure has yet to be negotiated.

In response to President Jacob Zuma's assertion that the ANC comes first, it has been suggested that the united front operates under the banner "Putting South Africa first".

The proposal is for each opposition party to contest elections separately and for the exact nature of coalitions to be negotiated in every municipality in which the ANC loses.

Where a single opposition party attracts more than 50% of the vote, as the DA is expected to do in Cape Town, no coalition will be formed, lessening the danger of smaller opposition parties being gobbled up by larger ones.

The initiative for opposition unity was launched by the EFF, which has for months tried to reach out to other opposition parties, opposition leadership figures confirmed.

On Thursday, EFF leader Julius Malema used an interview with Reuters news agency to publicly call on other opposition parties to unite with the EFF to break the ANC's stranglehold on power in the local government elections.

"It is an opportunity now for South Africans to show the ANC that they are tired; that the ANC should begin to take them seriously, ahead of the national elections in 2019," Malema said.

The main obstacle to opposition unity has been the EFF's radical rhetoric, parliamentary behaviour, racially divisive language and extreme policies, DA leaders told the Sunday Times.

The DA was initially loath to work with the EFF, and the party is still debating the issue, DA insiders have said.

Sceptics of coalitions say they only work if the parameters are clear and if there is a national dispute resolution mechanism with an opt-out clause, managed by national leadership figures of participating parties.

"The debate in the DA is between those who want to unseat the ANC and give coalitions a whack, and those who believe the EFF to be inherently corrupt and do not want the DA to be tainted by association, as it was by the shenanigans in the Cape Town city council after 2,000," a key DA player said yesterday.

"If we can deliver a coalition like Cape Town in 2006 under Helen Zille, I'm for it. If we deliver one like Cape Town in 2,000 under Peter Marais, I'm against. Winning through coalitions is great, but then what? What happens afterwards is important. That is where voter trust is won or lost."

joubertj@sundaytimes.co.za