‘Coalition governments must prioritise food security’

Although South Africa's food is very safe and nutritious, food insecurity is still widespread on a household level. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Although South Africa's food is very safe and nutritious, food insecurity is still widespread on a household level. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

There’s growing consensus that Mzansi is likely to have more coalition governments after the 2021 local elections, and agriculture wants politicians to be mindful of their responsibility to enable and help ensure food security.

In less than a week (1 November, 2021), South Africans will cast their votes to influence the delivery of basic services in the areas where they live and work. However, the historical dysfunction of coalition governments worries the agricultural sector.

Coalitions governments are formal agreements between two or more parties to rule together when there were no clear winners during elections.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Role players in the agricultural sector caution that more must be done to ensure that food security features on coalition government agendas.

According to Agri SA executive director, Christo van der Rheede, the agricultural sector will need to put itself on the agenda. “We need to make our voices heard, interact with those politicians and to put the facts on the table.”

Van der Rheede highlights that the rise of input costs such as fertiliser, diesel, electricity, labour and the like pose a serious challenge to food security.

“We must understand that the national constitution requires of the country to ensure that people have access to food. So politicians, directly and indirectly, are responsible for ensuring food security in the country. It’s a constitutional obligation that rests on them.”

In terms of ensuring social stability and economic growth, Van der Rheede says that politicians have to listen to the agricultural sector.

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Coalition governments are capable

Theo Venter reckons coalition governments are capable of performing within rural and farming communities. This, he says, is especially the case when all members of the coalition have strong commitments to a development agenda.

Independent political analyst Theo Venter. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“The issue, however, is whether the coalition can manage the finances of a local government. That determines success in community development and if maladministration and corruption can be limited at least,” Venter explains.

In 2016, South Africa had 27 local governments without a clear winner.

Venter expects this number to increase in 2021 due to, among others, negative perceptions on service delivery as well as a larger stay-away vote, rather than voting for another party.

“Coalitions can be stable if the parties share a value system and if they are not too far apart on the ideological scale.

“The EFF, for instance, has proved not to be a stable coalition partner, while the FF-Plus has promoted themselves as reliable coalition partners. Small parties usually want more out of cooperation than what large parties can deliver,” Venter says.

Mzansi will have to wait and see

Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga says that the coalition governments that have been formed in metros in the past have been quite dysfunctional.

Dr Ralph Mathekga, political analyst. Photo: Supplied

“There are areas where coalitions are not as bad, but in the metros, it has been quite difficult,” he reckons.

He adds that the ANC has run into trouble managing local governments across the country, which has put them in a bad light, and that no party will likely grow its majority.

South Africans will therefore have to wait and see what politicians have learned in the current term, coming to an end soon, when it comes to managing coalitions and making sure they succeed at effective service delivery.

“We will have to see what they have learned and if those lessons come forth… There’s no doubt that there will be more coalition governments.”

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