Lib-Con coalitions to spread to Africa?
The Tory-Lib-Dem coalition in the UK seems to have inspired a similar movement in South Africa, as the following story suggests.
ID leader Patricia De Lille addressed the congress, dangling an engagement ring as a symbol of a pending marriage of opposition parties.
‘I don’t know where we are in the process of courting and dating. I don’t know who is going to buy the engagement ring, but I think Helen can afford to buy the ring,’ she joked.
At its March conference, the ID gave De Lille a mandate to negotiate with the DA on co-operation, with her deadline due on September 20 and talks set to continue this week.
Zille cautioned that coalitions with other parties were ‘fragile and complex to manage’, but said it was the next step.
However, the two leaders were mum about the merger process, what form it would take and De Lille’s role.
The Democratic Alliance, led by Hellen Zille, is about as Tory as you can get in South Africa, while Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats are the closest you can get to a liberal party.
Why is it, then, that I feel that if Patricia de Lille entered a coalition with the DA, she would be more of a renegade than Nick Clegg in the UK? I know many UK liberals regard Nick Clegg as a renegade, and the Labour supporters who said that a vote for the Lib-Dems was a vote for the Tories now feel vindicated.
There are, of course, significant differences. In the UK, the coalition took place after an election in which no party gained an overall majority. It made it possible to form a government, and, as is the way with politics, compromises inevitably had to be made. Whether the British Lib-Dems can restrain the Tories from some of their crazier ideas remains to be seen, though it seems that, in spite of all the rhetoric about the need to reduce government spending, the coalition is continuing with Labour’s expensive foreign wars.
In South Africa, there is no question of a DA-ID coalition forming a government, and it is not taking place in the wake of an election, but in the lead-up to local government elections. And there is also the problem that the DA is considerably further to the right than the Tories in the UK. It is only 11 years since the then Democratic Party, under Tony Leon, sought to woo the white right with its “fight back” campaign. And that was before it united with the rump of the National Party (having gained most of the votes of their constituency — the people who gave us apartheid for 45 years), to form the Democratic Alliance. OK, Helen Zille is not Tony Leon, but the Democratic Alliance is not Hellen Zille — at least not in the sense that the ID is Patricia de Lille.
The Independent Democrats have had their own share of renegades in the recent past, like Simon Grindrod who went off to join COPE. But COPE, having split from the ANC, had already been infected with the ANC’s disease of infighting, leaders jockeying for position; it’s all about personalities rather than policies.
Perhaps what South Africa needs is something like Screaming Lord Sutch’s Official Monster Raving Loony Party. I wonder what happened to the Soccer Party, which contested the 1994 elections — where are they when we need them? And the Thabo Mbekis and Tony Leons of this world may come and go, but Amichand Rajbhansi of the Minority Front goes on for ever, like the Vicar of Bray.
But, sentimental old liberal that I am, I’d like to go on voting for Patricia de Lille, the heir of the South African liberal tradition, until the day I die. But if she joins the DA, no way, José!