The Konrad Adenauer Foundation invited leaders of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), ActionSA, Build One South Africa (BOSA), Democratic Alliance (DA), Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to go on a study tour to Germany to learn how coalition governments have worked since World War 2.
We learnt many valuable lessons that prepared us on how to make binding agreements among coalition partners should the need arise.
Most of the speakers and facilitators emphasised the need for building trust among coalition partners if a strong and effective government is to be formed. They also raised the importance of commitment from all those forming a coalition government. That commitment, they said, should be based on agreements that have been agreed to. One of the goals for signing the agreement is to ensure that partners agree to serve public interests rather than pursue narrow and selfish party ambitions, such as to outshine others.
Different speakers also emphasised the importance of respect for other partners, and to never attack or contradict each other publicly. Differences, they continued, have to be settled behind closed doors so that voters can remain confident that they are being served by a government that cares for their interests and well-being. When responding to the question “What would happen if one coalition partner wants to opt out?”, they said that it could collapse a sitting government which would necessitate fresh elections. Switching partners between elections when a government is expected to deliver services always comes at a high price.
One other lesson to us as South Africans was the flexibility they have to choose alliance partners. German political parties can have a coalition government on a national level different to those they have at provincial level. While South African voters expect provincial and local governments to follow the model and example set by the national government, parties in Germany do it differently. They encourage different levels of government to follow different models they believe would work well for their communities, as long as they do not compromise their core values and principles.
All leaders left Germany determined to improve trust, respect and commitment to work for successful partnerships that will improve service delivery from 2024.
The ACDP has a reputation for being one of the most stable and consistent partners within government structures and coalitions. This is because we have always believed in governance established on the principles of integrity, trust and respect. Respect, as we understand it, should encapsulate four main areas: Respect for God Almighty, respect for self, respect for one’s neighbour and respect for property. We believe that for any nation to thrive and prosper, that nation has to be governed by people who hold to these cardinal values and principles.
We as the ACDP will continue in our commitment to honour and enforce these principles, knowing that South Africa has a great future with these in place.