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Opposition alliance can win South African election, says chair

AN alliance of South African opposition parties can win a May 29 election and would bring significant change after 30 years of African National Congress (ANC) government, the chairperson of the talks that led to the alliance being formed said.

The Multi-Party Charter (MPC) has 11 member parties who have agreed on broad policy priorities including a commitment to a free market economy, and whose ambition is to dislodge the ANC in the most unpredictable election of the post-apartheid era.

Polls suggest the ANC will lose its majority while remaining the largest party, opening the possibility of a coalition government.

“This is our first election that will go to the wire,” William Gumede, who chaired the 2023 convention that resulted in the MPC, said in an interview with Reuters.

Gumede, a professor of public management at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who is not affiliated with any party, said the ANC had failed, citing economic stagnation, poor delivery of basic services, corruption and other problems.

The MPC policies include adherence to the constitution and the rule of law for all, free market economics, using private sector firms to deliver services, and a commitment to social justice paired with welfare reform that would tie certain benefits to participation in skills training, Gumede said.

The most prominent parties in the group include the Democratic Alliance (DA), which won the second largest share of the vote in the last election five years ago, and ActionSA, led by a respected former mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba.

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Others include the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party, which draws its support mostly from Zulus, and Freedom Front Plus, which represents the interests of the white Afrikaner community.

PATH TO VICTORY?

The alliance’s diversity was one of its main points, Gumede said, as South Africa needs to tap into all its talents, both in terms of its racial and cultural diversity and the dynamism of its business community, to improve its fortunes.

The ANC has not publicly acknowledged it could lose its majority or said who it would pick as a coalition partner.

For Gumede and member parties of the MPC, the worst-case scenario would be a coalition between the ANC and one or both of two smaller left-wing parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

A March poll by the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based think tank, found support for the ANC at 39%, while the opposition alliance parties were collectively at 33%. MK had 13% support, while the EFF was on 10%.

Polled on which coalition option they would prefer, 29% of respondents favoured the MPC, 25% an ANC/DA alliance and 24% an ANC/EFF deal.

Gumede said the MPC had everything to play for given the unpredictability of the situation and the fraught relations between the EFF, MK and some ANC factions.

Much will depend on turnout, he said, pointing out that in the last election 9 million registered voters did not vote.

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The MPC could win if 2 million of them turned up for member parties, he said, adding that dissatisfaction with the ANC was so high that the governing party was unlikely to boost its own numbers.

“They didn’t turn up for the ANC in 2019 and they’re not going to now,” he said.

By ESTELLE SHIRBON

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