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Democracy 2024 (Day Two) – 15 days to reshape a country


Ferial Haffajee is Daily Maverick Associate Editor. In her long and storied career, she has been editor-in-chief of both City Press and Mail & Guardian.

Fikile Mbalula and David Makhura to lead ANC talks, with Joel Netshitenzhe likely a key wingman.

On Monday morning at Luthuli House in Johannesburg, the ANC started its most important round of talks about talks since 1994. For the first time since it began speaking to the apartheid regime in the early 1990s, the ANC is considering power-sharing options. 

This time because it has lost an election; that time because it was about to fight and later win its first democratic election. 

The party has been gracious in defeat and smart in negotiation preparations.

Various lobbies have engaged intellectuals to draft papers weighing up the various options for the party. Daily Maverick has seen two and the rigour of each is impressive. (You can read that report here.)

The speed at which these papers have been produced shows how seriously the ANC takes these talks.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Democracy 2024 (Day One) — 15 days to reshape a country

What is common to both documents is that the ANC is concerned about the results of the election and about the message delivered by its supporters. It wants to win trust and power back.

That it is doing so in a way that is academic and rigorous suggests a return to the ANC of old – it was historically a party of professionals, religious leaders and academics, but in the past decade or so, that has been lost.

In Gauteng, for example, premier Panyaza Lesufi pioneered a brash populism which is being counted as one factor why the party was trounced in this urban and urbane province. 

It lost its reed-slim majority of 50% to become a 36% party in the province and recorded a low turnout in strongholds like Soweto. Some party strategists said this was a protest vote. 

The talks, which suggest a return to the old methods for the ANC as it begins negotiations, will be led by the party’s secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, and its head of political education, David Makhura. Both are seasoned negotiators, and while Mbalula has displayed a propensity for shooting from the hip, he was both funny and frank about the party’s losses when speaking at the IEC results centre on Sunday.

Makhura is an intellectual. He has crafted the party’s coalition principles which Lesufi has ignored, to his peril. Those principles include values-based negotiations around constitutional pillars. This is good news.  

Mbalula, on the other hand, is closer to the EFF and would likely form part of the lobby which wants to include the Red Berets in a coalition or power-sharing pact.

NEC member and the party’s leading intellectual Joel Netshitenzhe is said to be playing an important role. 

The ANC has many experienced negotiators, lawyers and strategists in its ranks so it will be a formidable party at the table.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections declared free and fair: Six things you need to know now

Three forms of deals are on that table: a formal coalition agreement; a government of national unity where parties that received more than a negotiated threshold of seats form part of the government; and a “confidence-and-supply” agreement.

This latter agreement could involve the ANC forming a minority government and giving control of the legislature to the next largest constitutionally loyal parties (the DA and IFP) by allowing them to appoint a Speaker and to chair the most critical committee positions. This will ensure that no-confidence motions do not stop government from working (the confidence aspect). And it will ensure that budgets (the supply aspect) pass. 

With this model, parties keep their identities and do not have to enter painstaking policy negotiations that take time and can quickly unravel, given the canyon-like gaps between the ANC and DA on many issues.

Readers would do well to understand that these are shifting positions that can change considerably between now and 16 June, the deadline for the formation of new national and provincial governments. DM


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