Five-party pact — PA and Good join government of national unity

From left: PA leader Gayton McKenzie. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | Good party leader Patricia de Lille. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard) | IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | DA leader John Steenhuisen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Laird Forbes) | President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The government of national unity has a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly with five parties joining it.

Two more political parties, the Patriotic Alliance (PA) and Good, have signed the government of national unity (GNU) statement of intent, taking the GNU above the two-thirds majority required in the National Assembly to change the Constitution. 

The GNU now comprises five political parties: the ANC, DA, IFP, PA and Good. The collective holds 273 of 400 seats in the National Assembly or 68% of the seats.  

However, it is still looking at roping in more political parties, including the Freedom Front Plus, which appears to be eager to co-govern.

FF+ spokesperson Wouter Wessels confirmed the party had been approached by the ANC on Friday and had received the statement of intent. 

“We are still proposing certain amendments or giving input into the agreement. We are still busy with that before we sign. Obviously, we will also firstly get approval from our structures.”

Wessels would not be drawn into commenting on the proposed amendments except to say they had to do with policy directives and were in line with the Constitution.

Should the proposed amendments be accepted, Wessels said they would gladly sign within the next few days. 

The FF+ believed the GNU was an opportunity the electorate gave political parties to “have a balance of power and that is what we are in line with and we’ve always said that the future of South Africa is coalition governments”, Wessels said.  

Rise Mzansi MP Makashule Gana said the party had not signed the GNU statement of intent and had opted to stay in opposition.

“I think there are enough political parties there. Therefore we will play our role as a constructive opposition in Parliament. We will play our role as MPs to hold the government to account and we want to play that role to the best of our abilities,” Gana said.   

‘Discussions ongoing’

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula welcomed the PA and Good to the GNU and extended an invitation to other political parties. 

“Discussions with other parties are ongoing in the spirit of inclusivity. The ANC once again takes this opportunity to invite political parties who resolved to define themselves outside this effort to reconsider and join the GNU.”

Mbalula said the recent election results, which saw the ANC’s support plummet to 40% and no outright winner, necessitated cooperation with other parties.  

“The GNU emerged as the optimal approach to defend and advance our vision of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa,” he said.  

The GNU has elected the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thoko Didiza, the Deputy Speaker, Dr Annelie Lotriet, and Cyril Ramaphosa back as President, but there is still a long journey ahead. 

Political analyst Sanusha Naidu said, “It is still very much in its inception, incubation stage. The first kind of benchmark that they have ticked as a box is being able to elect a Speaker, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the President.   

“The next phase is encapsulated in the next six weeks, where you have to have the formation of the Cabinet. And once you have that formation of the Cabinet, I think you have to also link the formation of the Cabinet to the policy direction.

“It is not going to be a perfect GNU. I don’t think anybody expects it to be. It is going to be contested beyond historical issues, identity and about race.  

“I think it’s going to be constantly tested because you’re going to have differences of opinion. You’re going to have interpretations of how you should pursue policy. I think you’re going to have some serious jostling in the government.”   

Political analyst Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast said the next six weeks and first 100 days in office for the new government would be crucial. 

“The success of this arrangement will be measured by the ability of the government of the day to address unemployment, inequality, poverty, power outages and water shedding. I think those are the fundamental threats to national security or to our democracy,” he said.  

Cabinet conundrum

One of the contentious issues that Ramaphosa will have to grapple with is whether to reduce the size of the Cabinet, which has long been criticised as bloated following its controversial expansion by former president Jacob Zuma in 2009.

The number of ministers had jumped from 29 during former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration to 36 under Zuma before Ramaphosa reduced it to 28 in 2019.

The Sunday Times reported that Ramaphosa may not be able to deliver on his promise to cut the size of his Cabinet as the ANC scrambles to accommodate parties that helped him get elected for a second term.

PA leader Gayton McKenzie wrote on social media: “We are proud to form part of the GNU. Our voters didn’t vote for us to sit in opposition benches. We trust ourselves and we are very capable of defending and advancing our political positions.” 

McKenzie has on several occasions said his party would leave the GNU if it was not granted a ministerial position.

His deputy, Kenny Kunene, told Daily Maverick: “We’re just waiting for them to come and present what they are offering us. If they are coming with crumbs, we would rather be in opposition benches. We do not want to be minister of tourists, we want to contribute to service delivery,” he said. 

Good Secretary-General Brett Herron said on Sunday the party had proposed that the statement of intent included a commitment to a social safety net and addressed spatial transformation, both of which featured in the document. 

“Our current support for the GNU is based entirely on our support for further dialogue as well as the foundational principles and minimum programme of priorities.

“We have had no discussions about positions in the GNU nor did we make any demand for any positions in the GNU,” Herron said.

‘Progressive Caucus’

On Sunday, uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party leader Jacob Zuma addressed the media and took a swipe at the formation of the GNU, which he claimed was for the benefit of the financial markets. 

“This is nothing but a return of apartheid and colonialism… There is no government of national unity in SA. There is a white-led unholy alliance between the DA and the ANC of [President Cyril] Ramaphosa]. It is sponsored by big business, and it’s for the benefit of the markets and not the people,” he claimed. 

At the same briefing, Zuma announced that his party would not be a part of the GNU and would instead join the “Progressive Caucus”, which includes the EFF, UDM, African Transformation Movement and other smaller parties.

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