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SALGA President Bheke Stofile calls for transparency in coalition agreements to ensure partners are accountable to the public



Posted: 14 September 2022

The President of South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Cllr Bheke Stofile has called for transparency in how political parties formulate coalition agreements.

"The first order of business for the coalition partners, after the conclusion of the coalition agreement, is to take communities into their confidence and publish the coalition agreement," Cllr Stofile says.

Cllr Stofile was speaking at the 2022 Local Government Week which is being hosted by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) under the theme, "Advancing Our Collective Effort to Enhance oversight and Accountability in the Local Sphere of Government". The sessions are scheduled for Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 September at the Lagoon Beach Hotel in Cape Town.

During an interactive session on "Good Governance, Oversight and Accountability in Coalition Governments", Cllr Stofile delivered his opening remarks and argued that coalition agreements entered into by political parties should be made public.
"For reasons, best known by coalition partners, coalition agreements have generally not been made public. It is our considered view that this may be a key contributing factor to why coalitions are so unstable," Cllr Stofile said.

The 2021 local government election re-defined the local government political landscape as coalition governments have become a common feature across many South Africa's municipalities.

"Publishing the coalition agreement can work in favour of coalition stability. It is no secret that, in the past, coalition partners did not hesitate to violate coalition agreements. The fact that there was no transparency surrounding coalition agreements made this easy: the public had no knowledge of the commitments made by the coalition partners so there was no fear of an electoral backlash when one of the partners opted out", said Cllr Stofile.

"However, if the public is aware of the contents of the coalition agreement, it will be more difficult for a coalition partner to violate the agreement. The public will know that this political party or councillor reneged on a commitment it signed," he added.

Earlier on the day, Minister of CoGTA Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini - Zuma delivered the keynote address, urging local government representatives to build ideal municipalities that are democratic, have oversight structures, and build communities that are resilient and sustainable.

The Local Government Week is an annual event of the NCOP that brings together three spheres of government together to debate and create a platform for the consideration and debate of matters affecting the local sphere of government. The NCOP is hosting the event in partnership with organised local government through the SALGA. Various Ministers, Deputy ministers, Premiers, MECs, Mayors and local government practitioners from across the country are in attendance.

In November 2021, SALGA collaborated with members of executive councils and tertiary institutions to develop a Framework for Coalitions Governments and now pushing for the framework to be promulgated.
The purpose of the framework was to determine the parameters within which coalition partners can practice their coalition politics. Without a framework to guide political parties in structuring and managing coalitions, political parties and independent councillors are required to establish coalitions whilst being uncertain about the rules, this results in coalitions being unstable or short-lived. This is a common problem across the board, SALGA has observed.

SALGA's framework proposes that coalition agreements should prescribe decision-making procedures and dispute resolution mechanisms that help with ongoing coalition bargaining and conflict resolution.


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