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Government of national unity faces mammoth task

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The ANC’s proposed government of national unity (GNU) appears to be facing a mammoth task as rivals the DA and the EFF have already indicated that they are not prepared to be in the same government.

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THE ANC’s proposed government of national unity (GNU) appears to be facing a mammoth task as rivals the DA and the EFF have already indicated that they are not prepared to be in the same government.

Within its alliance partners, the signs of a push-back were visible from the Cosatu-affiliated Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru). At its 10th provincial congress in Gauteng, the union rejected any partnership with the DA, saying it did not want a minority “rightwing government”.

This followed the ANC’s special national executive council (NEC) meeting on Thursday, at which the party agreed to invite political parties to form a GNU that would take into account the conditions prevailing in the country.

Reading the party’s statement, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said the organisation would not preclude the possibility of working with any party so long as it was in the public interest.

Addressing Gauteng’s 10th provincial congress on Friday, Popcru president Thulani Ngwenya said when parties came together, they would likely need to create a new manifesto, as the current party manifestos were far apart.

“But whatever shape the seventh administration takes, the people of South Africa should be the centre of the coalition, and particularly the working class and poor. Political parties come and go, but workers remain. And, as we warned the government before the elections, the workers that it has been leading are not satisfied.”

The union said it was alarmed by attacks from parties such as the DA on the country’s labour laws and protections for workers, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, minimum wages, labour relations frameworks and collective bargaining processes, and transformation and black economic empowerment policies.

“The (DA’s) moonshot pact has been dealt with by voters. So, how can the ANC consider getting into bed with a snake? We reject a DA coalition with the contempt it deserves. We do not want a minority right-wing government, or a convergence of harmful neo-liberal policies which have only entrenched poverty, inequality and unemployment in our country.”

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said whoever was expecting to govern with the EFF should have an appreciation of what his party stood for in terms of its cardinal pillars, which included the expropriation of land without compensation, the nationalisation of mines, the Reserve Bank and other strategic sectors of the economy among others.

Shivambu said the DA and other parties represented the colonial and apartheid system.

“We are not to form part of any government with the DA. We are not to sit alongside the DA and Freedom Front Plus in government as the EFF,” Shivambu said on the sidelines of the party’s meeting to consider its coalition approach after the declaration of the election results.

The party was scheduled to meet with the ANC following the latter’s NEC meeting.

IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said his party had engaged with the ANC, DA and NFP over the past few days on the way forward for the country.

Hlengwa said at their meeting with the ANC last Sunday, three scenarios were presented – a grand coalition, a GNU and a minority government.

“In light of the announcement made by the ANC, pronouncing a GNU as its preferred option, the IFP coalitions task team will now engage the ANC and other parties further and report back to the IFP NEC (national executive committee) on Monday,” he said.

He said the IFP was not averse to a GNU. “However, the devil is in the details, which will become clearer in the coming days, thus enabling the IFP to make a well-considered decision.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen said his party’s approach to coalition negotiations over the future of the country was based on defending the Constitution, ensuring stability and growing the economy.

“We continue to engage with all parties committed to upholding these principles,” Steenhuisen said.

The party was hoping to obtain details of the proposed GNU ahead of the federal council meeting on Monday.

Patriotic Alliance spokesperson Steve Motale said: “I can confirm that we have been invited by the ANC to be part of the Government of National Unity. I can also confirm that we have had preliminary talks with the ANC on the matter where we indicated our willingness to be part of a GNU. We are waiting for feedback from the ANC on the matter.

That’s where we are currently.” Policy analyst and researcher Nkosikhulule Nyembezi said there was good and bad news amid the national uncertainty.

“The good news is that South Africans, with or without political party affiliation, support the option of a GNU.

“The bad news is that politicians are still falling well short of the kinds of investments needed to look beyond the sharing of the spoils and getting the lion’s share of government positions.

“We are still not hearing loud enough assuring voices and not witnessing fast enough movements to improve public confidence. Nelson Mandela famously remarked: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ If we are to save the nation, now is the time for bold action. Let all play their role in doing it.”

UWC Political Studies associate professor Cherrel Africa said setting up a GNU was an extremely complex process.

“Political leaders are facing a complex and difficult set of decisions – they are dealing with both internal and external pressures and at the same time need to consider the long-term impact of their decisions.

“Additionally, they have to do this in an extremely short period of time. At the moment there is a lot of scrutiny and pressure from all quarters. Given the profound importance and implications of the process and the outcome, they should be given some space to do the work that they need to do,” she said.

Africa said while it was preferable to have “like-minded” political parties in any negotiation process, “we currently do not have that luxury”.

“Ultimately, decisions will need to be made and there will be stakeholders that are unhappy with the outcome given their differing ideologies.

“In the end we will need to bridge the divisions and accept the compromises that will inevitably be made so as to maintain stability and move forward.

“Our leaders will need to establish a basis for discussions despite their drastically different views.”

UKZN professor and co-editor of the book Coalition Building and Municipal Governance in South Africa, Purshottama Reddy said the citizenry wanted a government to come in and start delivering services.

Reddy said that achieving consensus among the parties might be difficult given the country’s history, as the parties represented a diversity of ideologies.

Stellenbosch University director in the School of Public Leadership, Professor Zwelinzima Ndevu, added: “A GNU can be formed without one, two or more parties in cases where there are fundamental concerns or differences, but that doesn’t mean when other smaller parties join the GNU with the DA, EFF and MKP it is not a GNU.

“The challenge I foresee is the issue of stability and confidence in a government formed by the ANC with smaller parties.”

Political analyst Keith Gottschalk said: “It would probably be least difficult for the ANC to enter into a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DA, as the DA and the EFF had for a few years in the Gauteng province.

“This means that the smaller party agrees to vote with the bigger party during every no confidence debate, and to pass the annual budgets – but remain free to vote against each other on every other issue.

“It would be more difficult to have another government of national unity, meaning a full-blown coalition, preferably with more than two parties. In that case, it would be best for the parties to have a written agreement on as many issues as possible, and be free to vote their own way on everything else.

“For example, the DA might vote for an ANC-proposed budget, but the ANC policy on the Israel-Palestine issues would get a majority of votes through support from the EFF and other parties, in the unlikely event this came up for a vote.

“On this issue, the DA has said it supports a two-state solution.”

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