MVC launches its position paper on coalition governments

19 April 2024

By Joel Bregman

Since 2016 the debate on coalition government focused on their dysfunctionality, poor service delivery, and instability. But coalition government is not the root cause of the decay in many of our municipalities.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of municipalities that produced hung councils in the Local Government Elections (LGEs) hovered between the high 20s and low 30s. This shifted dramatically in 2021, which produced 66 hung councils. Continuing the trend, today, roughly one in every three municipalities is governed by a coalition and several polls suggest that coalitions will emerge provincially and nationally after the 29 May general elections.

In anticipation of this, proposals are being discussed within government, and legislation is being suggested by the DA and the ANC. My Vote Counts (MVC) has analysed the state of coalition politics and presents its critique and analysis of these proposals. Our position does not just focus on stability, but broadly on fostering a democracy that is more accountable, transparent, and serves the interests of the public. Our full position paper can be downloaded here.

MVC’s positions on the proposals for coalitions 

We have identified 7 proposals, primarily touted by the DA and ANC, at the centre of the coalition discussion and have taken a position on each.

MVC is in support of:

  • Coalition agreements being made public before an election;
  • Extending the time to form a government after an election at the local level;
  • Insulating the public service from changes in government when coalitions collapse; and
  • Changing the legal nature of councils to the executive committee system.

MVC does not support:

  • Introducing electoral thresholds at any level of government;
  • Limiting motions of no confidence in any legislature; and
  • Creating a body to mediate disputes between parties in coalitions.

We need a change in political culture (and some laws – but don’t over legislate!)

In our multi-party democracy, coalition politics must evolve organically, while we also implement some changes to current laws, or introduce new legislation, to achieve effectiveness.

But we should not over legislate. Parties need to strengthen ways of cooperating with each other by adopting a more mature approach to politics, that puts the public over the party’s narrow interests. As Prof. Pierre de Vos, ‘For as long as political parties believe they will get away with it, the squabble for positions will continue to dominate coalition politics in South Africa’.

What is needed is a fundamental change in political culture. Often, the cause of coalition breakdown or poor performance is because of the individuals involved, their egos, and their pursuit for power.

Service delivery, accountable governance, human rights, and the deepening of democracy must always be at the centre of political discussion. The laws and frameworks that are developed must be geared towards enabling our politics to better serve the public, not to strengthen the power of the political elite.

We must also be cautious of the obsession with achieving ‘coalition stability’. Democracy must be able to function when there are changes in government. When a coalition collapses, there must be systems in place to ensure that the public service and administration continues unaffected.

MVC Campaign on coalition agreements before the 2024 elections

There is consensus that after an election, when a coalition has been formed, the parties make their coalition agreement public. While not a legally binding contract, it gives the public a tool against which they can measure parties’ performance and commitment. But knowing this before an election is far more powerful.

It will provide a crucial tool to that will empower voters to pressure parties to stick to their principles and promises made in their election manifestos. If a party can choose the coalition partners it wants post-election while compromising on its stated positions and policies, it undermines the voter. Having pre-election arrangements made public, will also expose parties that are willing to forego principle and join forces in the pursuit of power after the vote.

The voter should be the most important element in this equation. As we approach 29th May, MVC will write to all parties contesting the elections to demand information on their potential coalition arrangements. This is crucial information to vote from a more informed position and to properly exercise our political rights.


Over the past year, there has been a growing narrative emerging, predominantly from the governing ANC, that coalitions are a problem, arguing that having a single party in power is preferable. This is despite the ANC being in multiple coalitions at the local level. Increasingly it looks like the ANC will need to enter coalitions, in some provinces and even nationally, to maintain power.

Instead of laying the blame for governance failures on coalition government itself, we need to interrogate why coalitions don’t always function well, why they break down, why they don’t deliver. We do need a legal framework, albeit a limited one. But all of this will be undermined if there is not a different approach to our politics, one premised on the public good.

Despite a flurry of action in 2023, ostensibly to develop some laws before 2024, nothing will happen before elections. Parties are too concerned with the electioneering, and this has been kicked down the road. But we need to ensure that the momentum that remains is maintained. As a legal framework is developed, we must not leave this solely to political parties, who will be more concerned with their own interests. But parties (and now independents) are meant to represent our interests. We can’t leave such an important part of our democracy soley in the hands of the political elite.



Social movements are using the vote to center their demands.

Abahlali baseMjondolo – Election 2024: The People’s Minimum Demands 

Amadiba Crisis Committee – It’s time for People’s Power


My Vote Counts has some exciting projects lined up as we move closer to #SAElections24!

Boikanyo Moloto will be launching a Civil Society Electoral Reform Panel which will be a civil society led effort towards electoral reform, increasing accountability and deepening democracy.

Robyn Pasensie will host a discussion on ways to fund a democracy which increases competitiveness of parties and independents, good governance, and oversight, while curbing corruption and undue influence in our politics.