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Issued by Daniela Ellerbeck and Ismail Joosub on behalf of the FW de Klerk Foundation on 11/06/2024



South Africa’s 2024 National and Provincial elections have significantly changed the country’s political landscape: For the first time since the end of Apartheid, the African National Congress (“ANC”) has lost its majority at national level and in several provinces. This necessitates the formation of coalition governments in these provinces, because no single party won an outright majority (more than 50% of the seats). Thus, cooperation between parties is needed in order to, e.g., pass proposed provincial laws (i.e. bills) and govern effectively. Coalitions will, therefore, be essential for stability and functional governance in these provinces. This shift marks a pivotal moment in South African politics, introducing both opportunities and challenges in governance.


What Were These Elections About?

The recent elections determined the composition of the national and provincial legislatures – i.e. our National and various Provincial Parliaments. South Africa’s nine provinces each have their own Provincial Parliament. This Provincial Parliament is the law-making (i.e. legislative) authority in that province, empowered to make laws that apply only to that province (section 104 of the Constitution).


National vs Provincial Parliaments:

Our National Parliament’s first house, the National Assembly (section 41(1)), was elected by South Africans in the past elections. It has the power to make laws that apply nationally. It represents us, the people and scrutinizes and oversees the National Executive (section 42(3)). I.e. it holds the President and the Cabinet accountable for how they implement the laws Parliament makes and for how they run national state departments and administrations (section 85(2)).

Provincial Parliaments have law-making power, but only for laws that apply within their respective provinces (section 104(1)). They also have the power to hold the Provincial Executive to account (section 114(2)).

Provincial Parliaments are, therefore, smaller-scale pictures of our National Parliament.


National vs Provincial Executive:

The National Executive comprises the President and Cabinet (section 85(2) of the Constitution). The National Parliament elects the President from amongst its members during its first sitting (section 86(1)) – see this article for more information. The President then appoints the Cabinet, i.e. Deputy President and Ministers (see section 91).

Similarly, the Provincial Executive comprises a Premier and an Executive Council (sections 125 and 132). The Premier, elected by the Provincial Parliament, appoints the Executive Council (section 128(1)) who are then sworn in by a judge designated by the Chief Justice (section 128(2)). The Premier exercises executive authority within the province, implementing provincial legislation and coordinating functions of the provincial administration (section 125(3)).


Impact of Election Results:

The election of the Provincial Parliaments directly impacts the Provincial Executives, because the Provincial Parliaments elect the Premier. Upon being elected, the Premier then forms the Executive Council (i.e. that province’s equivalent of Cabinet). This all directly impacts governance and administration in that province. As with the National Parliament, Provincial Parliaments must also ensure accountability and oversight of the Provincial Executive (section 114). This also directly impacts e.g. service delivery in that province.

The fact that the 2024 elections necessitated coalition talks in several provinces will affect who is elected as Premier (section 128) in each of those provinces. Provincial Parliaments will choose leaders that reflect that province’s coalition’s priorities. Coalition partners will seek to be represented on the Executive Council. Thus, coalition agreements will likely also influence who the Premier appoints to that province’s Executive Council. In addition, a coalition must maintain cohesion and consensus among coalition partners to ensure effective governance. Thus, disputes or conflicts within the coalition must be addressed promptly and transparently for the government in that province to function.


Impact on Key Provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape

Kwa-Zulu Natal:

As can be seen from the above, the uMkhonto weSizwe Party’s (“MKP”) emergence in KwaZulu-Natal (“KZN”) reshaped the dynamics of the election. The MKP stands as a formidable force in the province having secured 45,35% (close to an outright majority). This compels the need for a coalition in the province as no single party gained a clear majority (over 50%) in the province. This lack of a decisive majority underscores the imperative for collaboration between parties in the Provincial Legislature to elect a Premier, pass laws and govern effectively.


Why a coalition in KZN is necessary:

  1. The MKP’s substantial electoral success, particularly in its stronghold areas like Nkandla, establishes it as a major player in provincial governance.
  2. No party achieved a clear majority, depriving any single entity of the authority to elect a Premier or enact and pass legislation independently.
  3. Thus, coalition-building becomes essential to garner sufficient support in the Provincial Legislature to pass laws and govern effectively, aligning with the constitutional mandate set out in section 104.
  4. The election of the Premier of the province requires a simple majority vote in the Provincial Legislature (see Item 6 of Part A to Schedule 3 of the Constitution). To make sure its candidate gets the premiership, the MKP will need to reach out across the aisle to opposition parties to ensure their candidate gets 51% of the vote. (There is also a mechanism for the removal of a Premier, see section 130(3), on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct or an inability to perform the functions of office, but only with a supporting vote of at least a two-thirds majority. In KZN, this is, therefore, not a consideration as the opposition parties failed to make up two-thirds of the Province’s Parliament.)


The presence of the MKP alongside established parties like the Inkatha Freedom Party (“IFP”), the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (“DA”) adds complexity to coalition negotiations. These parties must navigate ideological differences and competing interests to form a cohesive government that reflects the diverse electorate’s needs.

In the coalition-building process, the MKP’s substantial representation necessitates its inclusion in discussions and decision-making, potentially shaping the direction of policy and governance in KZN. As parties engage in negotiations, they must reckon with the MKP’s growing influence and seek to accommodate its priorities within the coalition framework.


In Gauteng, no single party secured a decisive majority in the election, with the ANC receiving only 35,5% of the vote in the province. As a result, according to the Constitution (see above), a single party cannot independently elect a Premier. Instead, a coalition government becomes necessary. This means that multiple parties must work together to form a government.

With the opposition DA at 27,5% and the Economic Freedom Fighters (“EFF”) at 12,28%, evidence points towards a “hung province” where collaboration among parties is essential for effective governance. A “hung province” refers to a situation where no single party secures an outright majority of the votes with multiple parties each holding significant portions of the vote share, making it challenging for any one party to govern independently.

While speculation abounds regarding potential ANC-EFF collaboration, the electoral numbers suggest that such a partnership would require a significant third party to secure a governing majority. Thus, negotiations among the ANC, DA, and IFP could be pivotal in determining the future leadership and direction of Gauteng.

Western Cape:

In the Western Cape, the DA has confidently secured its outright majority at 55,3%. This means it will be able to appoint the Premier and pass bills without problem and that it does not need to lobby opposition parties to do so. This makes a coalition unnecessary here.


Possible Coalition Governance Scenarios in the Provinces

Given the election outcomes, several coalition governance scenarios could emerge:

  1. KwaZulu-Natal: In KwaZulu-Natal, an MK-IFP coalition appears probable, given MK’s substantial support at 45.35% and the IFP’s influence with 18.07% of the vote and that the MK Party has refused to work with the ANC if President Cyril Ramaphosa retains his current position.
  2. Gauteng: In Gauteng, an ANC-DA coalition could be viable, leveraging their combined support to potentially secure a governing majority, particularly if smaller parties align with them. With the ANC at 34.76% and the DA at 27.44%, their collaboration could bridge the gap to reach over 50%. Alternatively, an ANC-EFF partnership might emerge, as these parties have already worked together at a local level in the province, such as in Ekurhuleni.
  3. Western Cape: in the Western Cape, no coalition is necessary due to the DA’s decisive majority, capturing over 50% of the vote. With the DA’s overwhelming support at 55,3%, there is no need for coalition-building, allowing for single-party governance and a continuation of the party’s established policies and leadership in the province.


What happens if coalition agreements cannot be reached in the provinces?

The Constitution requires that the Provincial Parliament elect a Premier within 30 days of a vacancy (section 109). Failure to do so triggers the dissolution of that Provincial Parliament, followed by new elections within 90 days (See section 108). During this transition, an Acting Premier assumes governance responsibilities. Subsequently, the Independent Electoral Commission oversees new elections and (upon reconvening) the legislature initiates the process of forming a government based on the newly elected members.

Thus, should coalition talks fail, for example, in KZN and Gauteng, resulting in those Provincial Parliaments failing to elect a Premier, those parliaments will dissolve. Both provinces will then have to have another round of elections for the seats in their respective parliaments.



For the above reasons, the 2024 elections highlight the imperative for provincial coalition governments. This demands effective collaboration among diverse political parties to make our constitutional democracy a reality for all South Africans. While the Constitution does not explicitly outline a framework for such coalitions, it underscores the need for negotiation and cooperation.

Successful coalitions will ensure representation of all South Africans, fostering stability and development. Managing the interaction between provincial and national coalitions will be crucial to balance local autonomy with national coherence. As South Africa navigates this complex political landscape, the efficacy of coalition governance will be pivotal for political stability and progress.