South Africa’s municipal government elections in 2021 produced a number of largely unstable local government coalitions. There’s now a strong possibility that the next government that’s formed at national level may be a coalition too. This would be the first since the dawn of democracy in 1994. Elections due in 2024 will test the extent of the declining dominance of the governing African National Congress. Indeed, some polls suggest the party could fail to secure the 50% of the vote required to form a government. With no other party tipped to meet the threshhold, there might have to be a coalition instead.

Can South Africans expect a national coalition to be stable? The turbulence in coalitions seen in 2021-2022 suggests not. The disintegration and reconstitution of municipal coalitions in the past year indicate that many parties are using them as a political battleground between elections. The result is lack of attention to actually governing cities, and providing municipal services.

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