Was the cabinet positions leak a staged psy-op by the DA?

All eyes will be on the South African markets and the rand’s strength as coalition talks continue. IOL graphic

All eyes will be on the South African markets and the rand’s strength as coalition talks continue. IOL graphic

Published Jun 27, 2024


By Junior Lebese

As negotiations in the Government of National Unity (GNU) coalition enter high gear, the leaked letter detailing the DA's cabinet position demands looks like a staged political theatre.

A closer look reveals a likely negotiation stratagem employed by both sides to manage public perception.

This psychological operation allows the ANC to portray the DA as unreasonably demanding, while enabling the DA to set its negotiation agenda and terms.

The DA's leadership likely doesn't expect to secure the cabinet positions outlined in the leaked document.

The successful rebranding of the ANC and DA coalition into the GNU showcases a silent coordination between the parties, each helping the other save face and sell this model to their respective support bases. As the majority party in the GNU coalition, the ANC bears the responsibility of allocating positions to the DA and other coalition partners.

President Ramaphosa, however, faces a dilemma: he must deliver the unwelcome news to some of his comrades that some of them will lose their positions. Could this leak be a backdoor negotiation tactic, providing Ramaphosa with a soft landing for this difficult conversation?

While ministerial positions come with blue lights and status, the real prize for the DA is full control of the departments they will get.

A political veteran like Helen Zille understands that demanding certain ministries in the DA letter is a bridge too far.

The snake in the grass lies not in the ministries requested, but in the other conditions that have escaped public focus. The DA seeks total control of any departments and ministries they're allocated, potentially down to Director-General or Deputy Director-General level.

Zille likely anticipated the letter's leak, given the audacity of the demands.

Through the leaked letter, the DA expressed its intent to review tenders issued by ministers since the promulgation of the elections.

This is significant. Aware of the impending transition, the DA suspects some ministries may have hastily issued tenders to secure economic cushions post-office.

The leak thus prepares the public for a potential "clean up" operation.

The DA appears comfortable with public discussion focusing on positions, knowing that its other key conditions have registered with both the public and the ANC.

Given how deeply these portfolios are linked to ANC policy, the DA may not secure a single position they've requested. However, this gives the ANC an illusion of successfully pushing back, when the DA may have been uninterested in those positions from the outset.

Ultimately, the GNU remains an ANC-led coalition under Ramaphosa.

From a policy perspective, the ANC still "leads" the national government, including the portfolios the DA has signalled interest in.

While many might perceive the DA as outmanoeuvring the ANC, we should consider the possibility that both parties are playing to the public gallery.

The leak may have been staged to unsettle certain individuals and condition others to accept terms they would typically reject. "Shock and awe" strategy.

This could be a coordinated effort to push through specific DA conditions while creating the appearance of successful ANC resistance. The public would do well to look beyond the headline-grabbing ministerial wish list and pay attention to the fine print.

As negotiations progress, observers would do well to look beyond the surface-level drama of ministerial appointments. The true reshaping of South Africa's political landscape may lie in the quiet concessions and subtle shifts of power that this leaked letter has so artfully set in motion. In politics, what's left unsaid often carries more weight than public pronouncements.

The DA leaked letter is far from a political blunder.

It emerges as a sophisticated opening gambit in a high-stakes political chess match. It may well prove to be the prelude to a far more interesting political drama yet to unfold in the GNU coalition.

* Junior Lebese is a pseudonym of a long-serving member of the ANC in good standing, and a social commentator. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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