n Journal of Public Administration - Party coalition as a model to govern municipalities in South Africa

Volume 54 Number 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767


In this article, party coalition in municipalities is discussed with specific reference to South African Municipalities, taking into account issues relating to leadership, governance and service delivery, with specific reference to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province. In addition, the local government party system, including the electoral system that gives rise to representation of individuals in municipal council, is discussed. In South Africa, parties and individuals are voted into power by communities within a municipal area through an electoral system to form part of the municipal council. Once the said exercise is done, a municipal council is pronounced and established in terms of the legislation that governs local government in South Africa. The party representatives and individuals voted for, by law become a municipal council and represent communities and derive the power to exist from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (hereafter referred as the 1996 Constitution). Those who have the majority as per the election results automatically become the ruling party through a vote in council and share a bigger stake in the leadership within council. It is therefore argued in this article that, at times, parties who have not received the outright majority to govern a municipality and in this case, power to govern including the election of the mayor, speaker and key positions in the municipal council, negotiate power sharing with other parties and individuals to form a coalition government. It is proposed by the author that municipalities could use this model to improve service delivery and further improve leadership and governance. However, in some cases this may not be the case as coalition requires sacrifices including shifting from a party policy ideology to suit coalition demands. In addition, due to the party representative system, disagreements emerge, and the possibility of stable municipalities becomes a dream. It is further argued that in South Africa, this model compromises quality and sustainable service delivery, strong leadership and good governance due to party politics that prevail over the voters' mandate to those elected.

It is proposed by the author that a party system and coalition governance undermine the voice of voters and further cripple service delivery because of unstable governance in municipalities. It is therefore evident in South Africa (reference to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality) that coalition governance at this time results in unstable municipalities and in the process, service delivery is compromised. Recommendations provided in this article can be used in the review of both electoral legislation and the party system in South Africa.

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