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1994 2.0: ANC will form a government of national unity ‘to tackle pressing issues’ – Ramaphosa

1994 2.0: ANC will form a government of national unity ‘to tackle pressing issues’ – Ramaphosa
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Maja Hitij / Getty Images)

After failing to secure a majority in the recent elections, the ANC will start negotiations with other parties to form a government of national unity.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the party’s decision to invite other political parties to form a government of national unity (GNU) following the ANC’s failure to secure more than 50% of the national vote in the 29 May general elections.

This announcement was made after a special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held on Thursday.

The concept of a GNU is not new to South Africa: the first democratic-era government featured a GNU, which included the National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

Ramaphosa said establishing a GNU was the most viable, effective and powerful way to meet the expectations of all South Africans at this critical juncture.

“The purpose of this government of national unity must be first and foremost to tackle the pressing issues that South Africans want to be addressed,” Ramaphosa stated.

“These issues include job creation and inclusive economic growth, the high cost of living, service delivery, crime and corruption.”

He said the NEC had agreed that the current moment demanded the broadest unity among South Africans.

“This moment also calls for multiparty cooperation and multi-stakeholder collaboration if we are to overcome the severe challenges that confront our country.”

 

The ANC has already initiated discussions with the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), IFP, National Freedom Party (NFP) and Patriotic Alliance (PA).

After earlier statements from the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party that it had had no formal communication with the ANC, it announced on Thursday that a meeting with the ANC would take place soon.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC in talks with political parties – but claims Zuma’s MK Party unresponsive

In April 2023, the ANC agreed on principles to guide the party’s approach to coalition collaborations. These principles aim to advance the creation of a united, democratic, nonracial, non-sexist and prosperous nation. Ramaphosa stressed that all coalition partners had to commit to shared values, nation-building and social cohesion.

“These values include respect for the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the rule of law, social justice and equity, human dignity, nonracialism and non-sexism,” Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

He highlighted the importance of stability, accountability, transparency, integrity, community participation and good governance.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa kicks can down the road with ‘government of national unity’ play

As the ANC moves forward with its plans for a GNU, Ramaphosa said the focus would remain on addressing the key issues facing South Africans and fostering a collaborative, inclusive government.

“Agreements between parties should be in writing. They should be public, transparent and include measures for holding parties accountable. Our approach to how provincial governments are formed, where we do not have an outright majority, will be guided by these same principles.

“The ANC notes that we have ideological and political differences with several parties in our political landscape. However, we will not preclude the possibility of working with any party so long as it is in the public interest and it is keeping with the principles that I have articulated.”

He said the NEC had mandated the ANC’s negotiating task team to engage with parties on this proposal. It would also reach out to a broader range of parties to enrich the process and promote inclusiveness. 

Details of the proposed GNU are still unclear and will be flushed out in negotiations with other parties.

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday, “The question is, if you put the principle out there, who is prepared to come with you to execute a GNU? And what is a GNU? What is its content? So, we go into negotiations.”

Daily Maverick reported on Monday that three discussion documents had been tabled to guide the ANC NEC talks on power-sharing that outlined the party’s possible coalition options ahead of the 16 June deadline to form a government.

A GNU allows the ANC to avoid choosing between the DA, EFF and MK, but it could also be unstable as it will involve a variety of partners with different priorities.

The ANC could have gained a majority by forming a coalition with just the DA, but the ANC’s alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, criticised the idea.

About 15 ANC members gathered outside the venue where the ANC NEC met on Thursday to protest against a possible coalition with the DA.

“The NEC must not consider going into coalition with the DA. We believe and know that the DA is a direct opposite to what the ANC seeks to implement,” said protester Penuel Maduna.

Thuthukile Zuma, one of former president Jacob Zuma’s daughters, said, “We are saying that we are happy with the decision as announced by the ANC of a government of national unity, but that government of national unity should not include the DA.

“We have confidence in the ANC and the NEC that the decision they will come to will not include the DA, otherwise that will be a betrayal of the six million people who voted for the ANC.” 

The ANC could have also formed a government in coalition with Zuma’s MK party, but many in the ANC and the business sector baulked at partnering exclusively with the party of the former president, who has committed to scrapping the Constitution and consistently undermines the rule of law.

Next week, the first sittings of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), at which new members of Parliament will be welcomed. DM

Additional reporting by Michelle Banda.

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