Coalitions – a work in progress for effective, efficient leadership

Multi-party democracy and coalitions define our future. The shift of political power should be celebrated and supported. Coalition governments are a necessary development for accountable, transparent, ethical, and democratic governance for post-apartheid South Africa.

They are part of the land’s unfinished nation building and development project – a logical response to government’s corruption, failure, and incompetence. They serve to confront the prevailing injustices of the abuse of power, gross betrayal of public trust, and politicians’ unfulfilled stewardship role. Coalitions and effective opposition parties must make the land to work for all South Africans.

The country’s constitution envisions inclusive broad-based participation of active, organise, and discerning citizens. They must exercise their power and perform legal functions if that will heal the divisions and “establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”.

Coalitions or collaborative power is the “art of the possible” and leaders must be fully dedicated and committed to ensure its success. The success of our current electoral outcomes depends on the total involvement and support of citizens representing diverse and often competing interests.

Stakeholders and citizens must demand public morality and ethical conduct within coalition governments. They must also demand good governance, effective and efficient leadership laced with transparency and accountability. Addressing difficult issues require cooperation.

Negative political power awkwardly and comically sits in the hands of party bosses and criminals within political parties. It is time we accord genuine power to the right leaders. Positive power must be restored to the people. Coalition governments should act with boldness to confront all challenges including lawlessness and ungovernability. They must aim to root out corrupt systems, which are antithetical to good governance.

South Africa must invest time, skills and money to building broad-based coalitions and community organisations at all levels.

Firm structures are required to create strong and good coalition governments. That should be our strategic imperative for nation building and rejuvenation. The walls of class, religion, ideology, ethnicity, and racial divisions must fall.


  • Mkhabela is a professional community organiser and chairperson of the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership and the Steve Biko Foundation.
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