Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa for suggesting that there might be election reruns in hung municipalities if coalition talks between parties fail.
Steenhuisen, speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, accused Ramaphosa of misleading South Africans on how election reruns work.
He said in hung municipal councils where parties could not find each other, minority governments would likely be instituted, instead of by-elections being held.
“The idea put forward by the president that if coalitions are not set up, the legislation would kick in and we would have reruns, is misleading because in our opinion and certainly the advice we’ve taken, the earliest that this could possibly happen is only mid-way during next year.
“Peope must not be taken by the argument that just because parties can’t find each other that there is going to be an automatic rerun,” Steenhuisen said.
The DA leader said minority governments were tricky and not ideal as the parties that would form governments in municipalities with less than 50% of votes, would have to navigate several hurdles like motions of no confidence and the passing of budgets in council.
Steenhuisen called on the ANC to rather accept the results of the local government elections.
“We must accept that the election results are a fair and accurate reflection of the will of the people.
“And just because you don’t like the result shouldn’t mean that you say ‘let’s just go for a rerun’. We’ve got to accept the democratic outcome of an election and we’ve got to do our best within the legislative framework to make it work,” he said.
Speaking last week at an ANC post-election event in Soweto, Ramaphosa said the possibility of election reruns existed in the country’s 66 hung councils if coalition negotiations were unsuccessful.
He said the ANC was not desperate to enter into coalitions with other parties, even though its electoral support dipped below 50% nationally in the polls.
“Obviously, there is a time frame for these coalitions to take place and if those negotiations fail, the legislation kicks in. And then there might have to be another election,” Ramaphosa said.
‘It’s not as easy as the president would like’
Steenhuisen said it was strange for Ramaphosa to talk about election reruns when he told parties to work together to serve citizens when the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) declared the final election results earlier this month.
He said Ramaphosa was misinterpreting the Municipal Structures Act that governs municipalities.
“Collapsing municipalities does not serve that purpose. And frankly, it’s not as easy as the president would like South Africans to believe…
“If one reads schedule 3 of the Municipal Structures Act with section 30, it’s clear when coalitions can’t be formed that the legislation itself envisions a minority government and a council can only be forced to rerun immediately if the majority of councillors do not attend the first council meeting,” he said.
Steenhuisen explained the implications of what would happen if a minority government runs a hung municipality.
“If a majority then attend that elective [council] meeting, it will inevitably result in the election of mayors and speakers in terms of schedule 3. This does mean it is going to be a stable government.
“The first obligation that the council may fail to comply with is the budget, which is only due in July next year. So, the big risk for those minority governments will obviously be motions of no confidence by other parties who are trying to disrupt the programme. But even if this happens, it cannot in itself, substantiate a decision by an MEC to dissolve the council,” he said.