Editorial | Politicians, it’s time to grow up



A man votes at Matshidiso primary school in Mabopane. Photo: Alet Pretorius


When the era of coalitions kicked off in the wake of the 2016 municipal elections, it was hoped that the leaders of the country’s political parties would have the maturity to make the arrangements work.

The hope was that they would recognize that they had been tasked by voters to work together to improve the lives of citizens, not to engage in endless bickering. How misplaced that hope was.

The last five years of local government have been eventful. The conflict between coalition partners, encouraged by the EFF, who wanted behind-the-scenes power but without the tasks and responsibilities of the office, led to the collapse of the boards and a paralysis of development and delivery of services. services.

To prolong this nightmare for the next five years would be catastrophic for our towns and villages. Especially since South Africa came out of Monday’s elections with a grand total of 66 municipalities suspended.

An outcome that forces parties of different ideologies, policies and backgrounds to form a coalition is not necessarily a recipe for disaster.

A few years ago, the US-based National Democratic Institute and the Oslo Swedish Center for Peace and Human Rights produced a comprehensive manual called Coalition: A Guide for Political Parties. Based on case studies and contributions from around the world, this toolkit provides advice that will be useful to our parties as they enter into negotiations and establish functioning coalition governments.

The main recommendations are not rocket science, but they will require maturity and openness. The toolkit states that the starting point of maintaining good relationships will require partners to “show respect for each other’s opinions and traditions” and make efforts “to establish a climate of respect, trust, tolerance. and accommodation to each other ”.

He says that even when a deal has been struck, they should prioritize what the authors call “the four Cs” – communication, consultation, consensus building and compromise. Our political parties will have to dig deep to do what is in the best interests of the people they are meant to serve.

The electorate has now imposed this moment on them.

Coalition governments should be our norm for decades to come.

Politicians have no choice but to grow up immediately.

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