DA’s cabinet demands shake political landscape

DA leader John Steenhuisen, speaking during interviews with members of the media at the National Results Operations Centre (ROC), Gallagher Convention centre in Midrand. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

DA leader John Steenhuisen, speaking during interviews with members of the media at the National Results Operations Centre (ROC), Gallagher Convention centre in Midrand. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 25, 2024


The Democratic Alliance's (DA) demands for 10 cabinet positions, including the vice presidency, has sparked intense speculation and debate within South Africa's political area.

As a player in the coalition government, alongside the African National Congress (ANC), the DA’s move marks a significant power play aimed at expanding its influence and policy footprint.

Professor Purshottama Reddy, who is a public sector specialist at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, shared insight on this matter and said if you're looking at cabinet seats or even positions in Parliament, it should be based on the proportion of votes that you have received.

“I think the cabinet posts that they should receive should be based on the support that they have received.’’

Reddy strongly feels that if the ANC, as the former ruling party, gets support, South Africans can do what is necessary to take the country forward to make things work.

“If you look at governance, there has been a decline and if we don’t watch out, we will become a failed state,’’ Reddy said.

Another political analyst, Zakhele Ndlovu from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, said that looking at the election result percentages that the ANC has 40% and the DA has just over half of what the ANC won, the demands of the 10 ministerial positions are reasonable.

Ndlovu said looking at the number of votes that the DA won it gives them that much power.

Reddy said everybody has evoked the issue of working together for the betterment of the country, therefore, if you are negotiating, you will negotiate where you come out the best, you want to extract as much as possible.

Reddy further noted that this does not mean that what you want, is what you get.

“The DA has put it forward that it wants the vice presidency post, but I don’t think its married to the position, where it says we either get the vice presidency position or we’re out or we get 10 cabinet positions, or we’re out,’’ said Reddy.

“The DA is playing hard ball at the moment, but I think sooner or later they might accept the posts that they have been offered.

“From our side, as South Africans, we are hopeful that the negotiations will work and at the end of the day the parties will sort out their differences and work together as a coalition government.”

Reddy said South Africa have been facing numerous challenges as a developing country, and in the last 30 years, it hasn’t achieved its full potential post-1994.

Furthermore, Reddy said the DA is fully aware of this and might feel that the ANC government, having lost a lot of support, might be a bit more flexible in dealing with the demands.

Moreover, Reddy and Ndlovu agreed that the DA might feel that these are the critical issues in the country and that the only way they can make a difference, is if they are at the coal face as ministers or deputy minister.

Ndlovu and Reddy also noted that the implications are that the ANC could be construed as weak if they do give in to the demands of the DA, which is why they have to be firm in this regard.

“If they are not assertive enough, they might face similar demands from the other political parties which are much smaller. They have to be firm in that regard,” said Reddy.

Reddy said there are three major political parties in the Government of National Unity - ANC, DA, and IFP - and he does not believe the distribution of cabinet positions is going to significantly impact them in working together.

“Once all this has died down, the parties will work together because they are under pressure from the South African population at large.

“We want to make government work and we want to make the country work for all of us.”

Additionally, Reddy said the political parties in the GNU need to reflect - like all South Africans do - on what we want for our country.

“You can't be going into a coalition or a National Unity with certain demands, and I think the smaller parties need to ask themselves what they have to offer,” Reddy said.

The cabinet positions can be distributed between the ANC, IFP and the DA, and the smaller parties could be offered positions in the committee portfolios, said Ndlovu.

“Making too many demands doesn’t make governance work.

“We have to look at what people's expertise and skills are in terms of what they have to offer for the betterment of the country,’’ Reddy said.

Being a South African and seeing what happened previously - the transition from apartheid to post-apartheid - augers well for these negotiations, he said, adding that our hosting of the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were not to be dismissed.

“I think we are doing very well and are hopeful.’’

“Things will work out, you can't push too hard and you can't go beyond a certain limit,’’ Reddy said.

Ndlovu concluded that the reason the DA is making noise is because they want to be given a chance to prove to the electorate that they can do a much better job.