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Government of national unity in 2024? Who will be the n...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

A government of national unity awaits us in 2024, and the next president is unlikely to be from the ANC

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Brutus Malada is a political strategist and a research consultant. He previously served as a specialist writer and communications adviser for the rector of the University of the Western Cape. He has worked in various think tanks, including the Human Sciences Research Council and the Centre for Politics and Research. He was a member of the Midrand Group – a loose association of intellectuals in Johannesburg.

The 2024 elections will most likely see yet another negotiated settlement, except it will be a settlement without the ANC. The DA, the EFF and ActionSA are poised to be the main players in the new round of negotiations.

It is almost 30 years since the dawn of democracy and a déjà vu moment awaits the future of South Africa.

There are parallels to be drawn between the build-up to 1994 and what we are experiencing now in the build-up to the 2024 national elections. Indeed, history has a tendency of repeating itself.

The build-up to 2024 is recreating both the events leading to 1994 as well as the outcome of a negotiated settlement – a government of national unity.

Those who witnessed the fall of apartheid would attest that the two to four years leading up to 1994 was a witch’s brew of chaos, fear and despair. The oppressor – the National Party – deployed all sorts of tactics to create an environment of fear and chaos in an effort to secure its place in the negotiated settlement.

When the IFP pulled out of the negotiations, unleashing its warriors on a killing spree, it added fuel to the fire that was nothing short of a reign of terror.

Lest we forget, both the Boipatong and Bisho massacres, where 46 and 28 people died respectively, happened in 1992. The assassination of Chris Hani in 1993 saw the country teetering on the brink of a civil war. It was thanks to the leadership of Nelson Mandela, who commanded respect and offered hope amid a state of anger and despair, that a civil war was averted.

The early 1990s was also characterised by a looting frenzy that left the government bankrupt. While the ANC eggheads – Thabo Mbeki and Joel Netshitenzhe – were busy crafting blueprints for the government-in-waiting, declaring in 1992 that the ANC was “ready to govern”, the National Party was bankrupting the state.

Thus, when the ANC took over in 1994, it inherited a state that was bankrupt, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 49%. In fact, our debt-to-GDP ratio rose dramatically from 40% in 1992 to 43% in 1993 before it got to 49% in 1994.

The government had no choice but to go basket in hand and borrow money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to meet its obligations.

Then April 1994 happened, ushering in a democratic dispensation that gave the ANC an overwhelming mandate to govern South Africa. The ANC then formed a Government of National Unity that saw both the National Party and the IFP in Cabinet.

Almost 30 years later, it feels like déjà vu to witness similar events unfolding yet again. That 2024 is likely to usher in a new government of national unity is no longer a chimera, but rather a reality waiting to happen.

It is now clear for everyone to see that, if anything, the 2016 and 2021 local government elections have been a harbinger of what is to happen in 2024. The outcome of these elections has given a window to all South Africans finally to see that it is not just possible, but better, to live without an ANC government.  

However, aware of this impending reality that it will lose its grip on the levers of power, the ANC – just like its predecessor, the National Party – has been looting and bankrupting the state as if there is no tomorrow.

Our debt-to-GDP ratio has skyrocketed from a mere 23% in 2008 to an all-time high of 70.2% in 2021. We are back where we were in 1994, basket in hand, knocking at the doors of the IMF and World Bank to fund government programmes.

The State Capture Commission and the tomes of reports it produced provide evidence that the ANC looted the state until there was “nothing left to steal” – to borrow a phrase from Mzilikazi wa Afrika.

We have also witnessed the ANC devouring itself, comrades turning foe in the quest for tenders. Several ANC souls perished in the run-up to the 2021 elections in a quest to have their names on the list of the governing party.

As 2024 fast approaches, the killings will be escalated as comrades wrestle each other for the carcass of the ANC and the crumbs that come with the position of power. But hopefully, the ANC will – unlike the National Party and IFP back in the day – not move from killing itself to killing its opponents.

Meanwhile, the outcome of 2024 elections will most likely see yet another negotiated settlement, except it will be a settlement without the ANC. The DA, the EFF and ActionSA are poised to be the main players in the new round of negotiations. Together with other smaller parties, they will coalesce to negotiate the future of South Africa without the ANC.

While leaders such as Clarence Makwetu of the Pan Africanist Congress stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Nelson Mandela in 1994, that the latter was destined to ascend to the West Wing of the Union Buildings was in no doubt.

Fast-forward to 2024 and the big, imponderable question is: between John Steenhuisen, Julius Malema and Herman Mashaba, who will be the next president of South Africa? Put differently, who would you trust to be your president? DM

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  • Neither, or.
    Technocrats with a heart we need.
    Alan Winde should step forward.
    Old hand on deck to guide; with Imtiaz Sooliman running the show.
    GH-L in there and Mpho Phalatse. Most DA, but I’m sure there are many great ANC members and others, that can provide us with good leaders to realise the real SA potential.

  • What you’re describing is not a government of national unity, but a coalition government. Coalition governments are notoriously unstable, often held to ransom by the smaller participants who become the so-called king-makers. We’ve seen this play out already in metro councils, most notably Johannesburg and Gqeberha. With or without the ANC in the 2024 cabinet, we’re in for a protracted period of instability.

  • “The early 1990s was also characterised by a looting frenzy that left the government bankrupt. While the ANC eggheads – Thabo Mbeki and Joel Netshitenzhe – were busy crafting blueprints for the government-in-waiting, declaring in 1992 that the ANC was “ready to govern”, the National Party was bankrupting the state.”

    Please substantiate that. My understanding is that the National Party government was near bankrupt in 1989/90 as a result of ruinous apartheid policies and this was a powerful motivation towards a settlement. But if you can add details of looting in 1990 to 1994, please provide.

  • I agree with Menahem Fuchs that a coalition government is on the cards for 2024. Apparently the legislative path is paved for independent MPs to be elected. Now, would it be a mild case of putting-the-cat-amongst-the-pigeons to ask: “What if the possibility exists for the election of a non-party or independent president, such as the previous public protector (if she would be willing) – is that a viable possibility given the nature of our political system? I pose the question as I am not an expert in that domain.

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