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Who are the real sell-outs?

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OPINION: Depending on one’s point of analysis, each of the four major parties in the country could be viewed as having compromised their principles and, subsequently, displayed features of being a sell-out, writes Thuto Khumalo.

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SOUTH Africa has experienced 30 years of democracy since 1994. On May 29, 2024, many South Africans took to the streets to vote for change after widespread dissatisfaction with the previous government. With the ANC receiving less than 50% of the country’s votes, its efforts to form alliances bolstered its proposal for a government of national unity (GNU).

Opposition parties like the EFF and many others have criticised the ANC for including parties such as the DA and Freedom Front Plus in its GNU, labelling them sell-outs. However, it’s worth noting that depending on one’s point of analysis, each of the four major parties could be viewed as having compromised their principles and, subsequently, displaying a feature of becoming a sell-out.

ANC

After the election results, which stripped the ANC of its majority after three decades in power, the party has been scrambling for support. This has led the ANC to form alliances with former opposition parties such as the DA, IFP, Patriotic Alliance and others. With the DA having been the official opposition, many people feel betrayed by the unity, which, given the seat distribution of the other parties, appears as a significant grand coalition between the DA and the ANC.

From the ANC’s angle, the coalition was aimed at ensuring that the votes in Parliament would be enough to secure that the president be from the ANC and the Speaker would also align with its interests. Consequently, the ANC has agreed to appoint the DA to the position of Deputy Speaker and included the party in the Cabinet.

For various black people in particular, the union has become one worthy of being fearful of, especially considering the uncertainty about what this might mean for their communities and how greatly their standard of living might be affected. To its supporters, this is going to bed with the enemy.

DA

The DA, which secured the second highest number of votes in the election and served as the official opposition has become a part of the GNU. However, it instantly pledged to defend Ramaphosa if an impeachment motion was brought forward due to the Phala Phala scandal. The stance the DA took is contradictory to its campaign slogan and, arguably, against its constituent’s values and beliefs.

Notably, the DA was one of the parties at the forefront that initially voted for Ramaphosa to face impeachment after a Section 89 Panel report indicating he might have violated the Constitution and engaged in serious misconduct related to the Phala Phala incident. The move has clearly demonstrated the trait of betraying its constituents to secure power. The DA’s lack of or, rather, absence of pursuit for accountability from the ANC is rather scary compared to what the party has been preaching all along. The question is whether this type of betrayal will persist in the coming months as we head into a government of national unity.

UMKHONTO WESIZWE PARTY

The MKP received an incredible number of votes in the election. Nationally, it received 14.85% of the votes and in KwaZulu-Natal it swept the floor in its first election, bagging 45.35% of the province with more than 1.5 million votes.

However, the MKP pressed on with its Constitutional Court application to block the first sitting of the National Assembly, following its rejection of the “questionable” election results, which it said were fraudulent and rigged, despite the Electoral Commission of South Africa declaring them free and fair.

However, the Constitutional Court dismissed the MKP’s bid. As a result, the MKP’s 58 nominees for the National Assembly failed to attend a crucial assembly where the president and the Speaker of Parliament were elected. Their absence underscored a lack of representation, effectively silencing the voice of MKP supporters at a pivotal moment. It is unfortunate to witness a lack of representation for a people in such a significant event, which clearly exhibits characteristics of being a “sell-out”.

EFF

The EFF rejected the ANC’s proposal for a GNU if it included the DA and FF Plus. Many people feel let down by the EFF leadership for opting out and refusing to join the GNU while making demands despite not winning.

The decision came after the EFF’s candidate for Speaker of Parliament did not receive adequate support, leading the party to refuse to support the ruling party’s presidential candidate in return. The EFF’s failure to set aside its differences and find a way to inclusively engage and demonstrate its effective representation of its constituents in the political arena is rather disappointing.

Challenging a party’s decision to prioritise power over principles is a necessary but contentious practice, as politics has always revolved around power and how much power one has. We cannot particularly argue that if any other party was in the ANC’s situation, it would not have done the same.

Depending on which angle you look at it, hearing such a nature of “sell-out” disputes and allegations from the mentioned political parties seems rather hypocritical. It is clear that the relentless effort to construct and promote a particular narrative seems rather inappropriate.

However, the focus should shift away from a fixation on uncovering loopholes. Engaging in bitter commentary without providing constructive contributions reflects the behaviour of a petty politician or a disengaged citizen, adding little to the country’s progress. The approach could distort an understanding of events and create unnecessary conflict, potentially worsening the situation.

* Thuto Khumalo is a politics and international relations student at the University of Johannesburg.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA.

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