South Africa’s ANC ready for opposition in local councils after heavy losses

Country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, says his party will not enter coalitions ‘at all costs’

South Africa's ruling African National Congress party is set to go into opposition in councils across the country after suffering heavy vote losses in local elections.

The country's president, ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, said the party would rather become the main opposition in councils without a majority party than make "casual agreements" with political opponents to retain power.

Addressing his party’s post-election briefing on Monday, Mr Ramaphosa said the ANC would not go cap-in-hand to other parties to form coalitions in the 66 “hung” councils – which include five major metros – that emerged after votes were counted from the November 1st poll.

"If we have to be an opposition [party], we will be an opposition. We won't enter into coalitions at all costs," Mr Ramaphosa said at the briefing in Soweto.


Support for South Africa’s ruling party fell to just over 46 per cent in last week’s polls from the 54 per cent it won five years ago, which is the worst election result the former liberation movement has recorded in the post-apartheid era.

The ANC won a majority in 161 of the country's 257 municipalities. But it lost significant amounts of support in every metro and particularly in KwaZulu-Natal province, where the Inkatha Freedom Party looks set to lead at least 16 councils and control a further nine.

Since the election results were announced late last week, the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and other smaller parties have ruled out forming coalitions with the ANC. To do so, they say, would betray their supporters, who wanted to see major political change in local government.

Corruption and blackouts

Widespread government corruption, high unemployment, crippling power blackouts and ineffective service delivery were the issues that dominated the election campaign.

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said it had reached out to smaller parties, including ActionSA, the Freedom Front Plus and the African Christian Democratic Party and "put draft coalition agreements on the table".

The DA, which won 21.83 per cent of the vote, has said it will not enter into any coalition with South Africa's third-largest party, the radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters, due to ideological differences.

The two opposition parties joined forces with smaller political outfits to oust the ANC in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay metros in the 2016 local elections, but all three coalitions collapsed due to infighting and disagreements.

Due to its dwindling options, the ANC has begun negotiating with the EFF, which won 10.42 per cent of the vote, behind the scenes.

In South Africa, municipal councils are obliged to meet within 14 days of the release of a local election's official results. If coalition agreements are not in place by that deadline, South Africa's election laws provide for a rerun of the poll in the affected municipalities.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa