Nicholas Woode-Smith recently wrote an opinion piece questioning whether a future ANC-DA coalition isn’t only possible but pragmatic, considering the recent instability in multi-party coalitions. In a broad-ranging interview with BizNews correspondent Michael Appel, the author, political analyst and economic historian expands on the state of the ANC, DA, EFF, and ActionSA, in contemporary politics with a view towards the 2024 national elections. Woode-Smith says the future political landscape of the country hinges a lot on the internal dynamics of the ANC as Ramaphosa fights for a second term as party president, while former president Thabo Mbeki seems to have found his voice. Meanwhile, the ANC’s radical economic transformation faction is readying for a fight come December’s elective conference. The failure of the ANC to come to some agreement with the EFF around the mayoral position in Ekurhuleni – which saw the DA’s Tania Campbell return as mayor – spells good things for those South Africans perturbed by the possibility of that “unholy alliance“. – Michael Appel
Excerpts from interview with political analyst Nicholas Woode-Smith
Nicholas Woode-Smith on the possibility or practicality of an ANC-DA coalition
I’ve always actually been a little bit of a champion for the little guy. I liked small parties even when I was quite a big DA supporter. I supported smaller parties. I thought they were good for the hygiene of a democratic system. I thought they were good for providing a diversity of ideology in opinions. And also, I’m a free marketer, so I like competition. I think it incentivises parties to do better. But the way that small parties have behaved in these local coalitions this year, especially in Johannesburg, has been absolutely abysmal. It’s very disappointing. With the developments in the ANC, especially with Mbeki returning to the fold and with a lot of people in the ANC realising that things can’t actually continue like this, that they are losing control of the throne. They’re realising that their Cold War era ideology is starting to become really outdated and their allies, even the corrupt, are realising you can’t steal if there’s nothing left to steal. So I’m saying I think that there’s going to be factions involved that can actually be worked with.
On South Africa lacking the political maturity to make coalitions work
Just like people, countries mature with age. Take a country like England, many people don’t realise how old their parliament is, not just the building itself, but the institution. There’s something in there that leads to some sort of collective maturity, collective spirit and knowledge that makes things like that stable. Europe has had a lot of time to iron out the kinks of its democratic processes. We can see the problem with its coalitions and the instability of its governments during the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party. They learnt and they learnt the hard way. We could learn from them. But I think the problem is people don’t like learning from other people. People want to make mistakes themselves and so do countries. South Africa has a lot of learning to do in many cases. And the big thing is we need to learn to crawl before we can walk, before we can sprint. The problem is all, especially in Africa, a lot of the third-world countries want to start learning to sprint full speed before they can even get the basics right. We want to set up an advanced multiparty democracy before we even know what actually allows democracies to be successful.
On the collapse of the ANC-EFF discussions around taking over Ekurhuleni
I think what’s happened is extremely good, not just if you’re a DA supporter, but because an unholy alliance between the EFF and the ANC would be disastrous for South Africans. I spoke earlier about how we want the DA to be in coalition with ANC, mostly to be a good influence on them, to try to usher them into the light of good ideology and good governance. The EFF would be the little devil on their [ANC’s] shoulder. But not even a little devil, it would be a huge devil crushing their shoulder underneath the weight. The are a bunch of existing factions in the ANC. I do not know if one of them is actually pragmatic or efficient or has a good ideology yet. I think it’s possible, but I don’t know yet. But I do know is that one of the factions exists is still that old school communist CCP supporting Labour Unionist Party and they’re actually possibly more dangerous than the corrupt faction. In my mind. I would actually rather that the Zuma faction than them, because I think at least the Zuma faction, they want money to steal, so they at least allow policies that will allow the money to be produced in the first place. The problem with the let’s call them left wing faction is that they ideologies will destroy this country and if they have supporters ideology. So an unholy alliance between the two where the EFF pushes for those ideologies to be supported would be absolute disastrous for the entire country.