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2024 ELECTIONS

Government of National Unity talks at teething stage in Gauteng as Premier Lesufi wins early support

Government of National Unity talks at teething stage in Gauteng as Premier Lesufi wins early support
Incumbent Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

Political parties in SA’s economic heartland are under pressure to form a provincial government, but there has been no clear agreement between the key players ahead of the first sitting of the Gauteng legislature.

Political parties in Gauteng have until Friday morning to form a government, but it looks like talks to form alliances have only just begun as the horse-trading continues at both the national and provincial levels.

Just as Parliament is due to elect a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and President on Friday, the Gauteng legislature is also due to hold a sitting that day to elect the next premier and Speaker, according to a directive issued by Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo. 

On Tuesday, multiple discussions were taking place behind closed doors. The ANC, IFP and PA have shown a willingness to support incumbent Premier Panyaza Lesufi to lead the province — in which the ANC won just 34% of the vote, down from 50% in 2019 — while the MK party hasn’t endorsed Lesufi.

The ANC won 28 seats in the 80-seat legislature in the 29 May polls, with the DA taking 22, EFF 11 and MK eight. 

MK national spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said the party’s discussions in Gauteng had stalled due to the talks being held at the national level. 

“All I can say is that discussions are becoming more serious, heated and hectic,” Ndhlela said.  

He would not comment on who the party would endorse as premier or whether it would work with the incumbent premier.  

“That’s part of the discussion. All I can say is no one is safe, no one dictates anything. Remember, the ANC didn’t win the elections so negotiations are not going to be fluid,” he said.   

In the ANC, Lesufi is vying for the premier position alongside Economic Development MEC Tasneem Motara and Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Morakane Mosupyoe, who were all nominated and interviewed by the party’s top five officials.  

Daily Maverick associate editor Ferial Haffajee wrote that Lesufi may still get the nod for the position despite splurging billions in under three years on projects like Nasi iSpani, #ICrushNoLova and the Gauteng crime wardens.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng populist Panyaza Lesufi tanks ANC, but may still get nod for premier 

A moving target

The IFP’s Gauteng secretary, Alco Ngobese, confirmed several meetings had been scheduled to take place and that no decisions had been made. So far, discussions have only been around establishing whether or not there is an appetite to work with the ANC. 

“We are dealing with a moving target, so we need to be on our toes all the time,” Ngobese said.

The IFP, with just a single seat in the legislature, has already laid out its expectations. Ngobese said: “Our approach is very clear: it’s simply that we should be able to form the government of Gauteng, we want to serve in the executive of the legislature.”

If the party gets its way, it will take charge of the human settlements portfolio. 

While there had not been a conversation about who should be premier, Ngobese said the IFP was open to working with Lesufi as he had experience in the position and the potential to bring about political stability and work with all political parties. 

The PA’s deputy president, Kenny Kunene, said discussions with the ANC had taken place.

“We have met with the Gauteng negotiating team at their invitation. We dealt with principled issues including that we do not have a problem with going into coalition government with them — they wanted to establish that — and now they are going back to engage with the national leadership and get a directive on a framework of government.”

Terms of reference had not been discussed, said Kunene, who maintained that despite having just two seats, they wanted positions of influence.

“We have committed to working with the ANC. 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,” Kunene said. 

Like Ngobese, Kunene said there had been no conversation on portfolio allocations. “Those details have not yet been discussed.” 

In addition to having talks with the ANC, Kunene said the MK party had requested a meeting to speak about the composition of a possible government on Tuesday night.    

In a statement, the DA’s national spokesperson, Solly Malatsi said the party’s Federal Executive would make the final decision relating to coalitions and the formation of governments at national and provincial levels. 

“The DA continues to engage with other parties with the aim of forming stable governments that can ensure a better tomorrow for all of South Africa’s people,” he said.

An EFF member with intimate knowledge of the coalition negotiations told Daily Maverick that talks were under way and that the Red Berets would only work with political parties with a similar agenda.

‘Not desperate’

“We’ve consistently said that the EFF is not desperate for positions, so we are not going to work with parties who think they have won the elections because there will be constant fights and ordinary voters will have to suffer the consequences.” 

At a media briefing last week, EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu said the party would not be a part of a Government of National Unity (GNU) if it involved the DA or Freedom Front Plus. This is despite the fact that the EFF has worked with the DA in the Gauteng metros of Joburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. 

“We do not want to form part of a government with representatives of the white colonial and apartheid system,” Shivambu said.

Meanwhile, ActionSA has decided to sit in the opposition benches after securing three seats. Party leader Herman Mashaba said: “Our hope is that the DA and ANC can find each other to save this country without the MK, it is a better devil.”  

The party will send its Gauteng chairperson, Funzi Ngobeni, to serve as its caucus leader in the province’s legislature.

“We want to position ActionSA as a totally independent political party; we are going to be a constructive opposition, we are not going to cover for anyone,” Mashaba said.  

The ANC’s Gauteng elections head, Lebogang Maile, could not be reached for comment. However, Maile told News24 that there were discussions about how the GNU could be adopted at a provincial level.

“We are having our own discussion as the arrangement will be the same with one or two [adaptations] but, by and large, it would be the same because we are one organisation. Because there is already a framework, it will guide us,” Maile said. 

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula wrote on social media: “We have been meeting with all parties that are keen to contribute ideas on how we can collectively move our democracy forward to form a government that ensures national unity and stability, continues the transformation of South Africa, and safeguards our Constitutional democracy.” DM

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