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article imagePretoria opposition coalition talks fail after vote

By Susan Njanji (AFP)     Aug 17, 2016 in Politics

South Africa's leading opposition party said Wednesday it would not be forming a coalition government to run the country's capital, despite defeating the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in local polls.

The liberal centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) said talks with the radical leftist Economic Freedom Front (EFF) had failed to produce a coalition partnership to govern Pretoria.

"We are not going to go into coalition together," the DA chairman James Selfe, told AFP.

"But we will probably, depending on their decisions and our decisions, be going into some form of co-governance relationship whereby we will probably be able to form a minority government in one or more of the municipalities."

The DA topped the August 3 vote in municipal elections in the capital Pretoria, taking 93 of 214 council seats to the ANC's 89.

And with 25 seats, the EFF found itself in the powerful position of kingmaker in the municipality.

- 'Wide and divergent differences' -

"We mutually decided that it would be problematic to try and govern together because of some fairly wide and divergent differences on fundamental policies," said Selfe.

"But we do share a common understanding that we do want to achieve some of the same objectives and while we do that I am sure that we can work together."

Coalition talks between the two parties also failed in economic hub Johannesburg, where the ANC missed out on an outright majority with 45 percent of the vote.

But EFF leader Julius Malema -- a populist who was expelled from the ANC for ill-discipline in 2012 -- said at a press conference Wednesday that his party would back the DA with its votes in both cities, calling it "the better devil compared to the ANC".

A woman casts her ballot at a voting station for the municipal elections in Atteridgeville  west of ...
A woman casts her ballot at a voting station for the municipal elections in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, on August 3, 2016
Herman Verwey, AFP/File

"We'll vote for them and be in the opposition benches. The ANC will not get a single vote from the EFF."

"We are not co-governing... we are going to vote for the opposition because the ANC must be removed from power and this is the start of removing the ANC from power."

The municipal elections were largely seen as a referendum on President Jacob Zuma, whose rule of Africa's largest economy has been dogged by scandal.

The EFF had previously insisted on Zuma's removal as one of several pre-conditions for supporting the ruling party.

"On Zuma, they said it was a no-no," said Malema.

"The ANC is a corrupt organisation which subscribes to the kleptocracy."

The DA will, however, form a coalition government with three other small parties in Nelson Mandela Bay, a coastal municipality in the south named after the country's iconic late leader.

"We have concluded an arrangement with three other parties, and that will be a coalition government," said Selfe.

The ruling party suffered its worst result since the end of white-minority rule 22 years ago, garnering less than 54 percent of ballots cast nationally -- an eight percentage point drop from the last local poll in 2011.

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