The rise of multi-partyism in South Africa’s political spectrum: the age of coalition and multi-party governance

22 Nov 2017

Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa’s politics has been gradually moving from the prevalence of one-party dominance to a multi-party system. The failure of the ANC to maintain its political dominance gave rise to other political parties such as IFP, UDM, DA, COPE and EFF, just to mention the few. Recently, these parties have gained more support and momentum, and as a result, coalition governance is likely to become permanent feature of South African political landscape. This was witnessed in 2016 local government elections where a number of municipalities and metros are co-governed by various political parties. The purpose of this paper is therefore to contextualise South Africa’s political spectrum and locate the challenges and opportunities of coalition governance thereof. To this end, an attempt was made to present an analytical account on various types and theories of coalition and a detailed examination of multi-party political systems. The argument advanced in this paper is that multi-party governance plays a key role in shaping the agenda of the government and as well as in terms of suggesting policy alternatives. Though party coalitions are likely to become a common practice in South Africa’s politics, the paper however acknowledges that most opposition parties are still struggling with ideological identity, and lack of a clear vision on how to manage the affairs of the country. Another challenge is the political opportunism of parties, because they might develop tendencies to advance their own agendas and political manifestos. This might impede the progress to deliver services to the people. This if not addressed might impose a serious impediment to a coalition government. Furthermore, the paper recommends that parties building coalition must take into cognisance the risks might emanating as a result of the alliance.