Letter: Avoiding pitfalls of populism - Business Day

Last week’s election delivered SA a set of unpalatable options.

Last week’s election delivered SA a set of unpalatable options.

We’ve seen a large part of a frustrated, alienated electorate abandoning the ANC largely for former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe project. Whatever motivated this vote, it is important to understand that this is the first time that an unambiguously anti-constitutional option was placed on the ballot and gained traction.

Several commentators have pinned their hopes on the DA entering a coalition with the ANC — hoping, for obvious reasons, that this will ensure a sensible, centrist government with a policy agenda that can begin to repair SA. This may be premature.

However, if the ANC and the DA (ideally along with its partners in the Multi-Party Charter) can agree that their interests and those of the country are served by a degree of stability, the maintenance of constitutional supremacy (however shopworn it may sometimes appear) and fiscal rectitude, there may be a basis for negotiation.

The most favourable option may be for the DA/MPC to support an ANC minority government, on a “confidence-and-supply” basis. They would agree to abstain from supporting no-confidence motions and to pass budgets so that governance can be assured; the ANC would agree not to entertain an alliance with the EFF or MK. On all other issues, bargaining and temporary agreements would be necessary.

This would buy some breathing room to stabilise SA in its new realities, and perhaps to work on building trust and common ground — such as can be found — between the two blocs. The alternative, as the haunting South African turn of phrase has it, “would be too ghastly to contemplate”.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations