GNU paves way for inclusive governance

ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers.

ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers.

Published Jul 8, 2024



From the archives, it appears the ANC’s 1992 policy blueprint, “Ready to Govern”, foresaw the possibility of a Government of National Unity (GNU), which the ANC has now implemented twice in 30 years.

The first GNU was led by the charismatic former prisoner who became president of the new South Africa, comrade Nelson Mandela.

The second was skilfully crafted by President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, the architect of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa.

The seminal “Ready to Govern” policy document outlines four primary objectives of the ANC, which include establishing a unitary state, eradicating inequality and injustice, and asserting that the country belongs to all who live in it.

The document emphasises that the future of our nation depends on the harmonious and simultaneous realisation of all these goals. The pioneers of the new South Africa wrote: “Finally, the achievement of a genuine sense of national unity depends on all of us working together to overcome the inequalities created by apartheid.”

They advocate “a broad, inclusive approach, free of arrogance or complexes of superiority or inferiority” as fundamental.

Therefore, these objectives and principles of non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and mutual respect weighed heavily on the members of the national executive committee (NEC) when they met to deliberate on the future of our country after the watershed May 29 national and provincial elections, which resulted in a hung Parliament, with the ANC failing to achieve a majority for the first time since the 1994 breakthrough.

We unequivocally reject historical revisionism, which suggests the ANC had options other than promoting our historical policy proposition for a “broad, inclusive approach” to governance. We could not opt for a grand coalition because, by its very nature, it seeks an exclusive marriage of convenience to divvy up the government cake.

Such an arrangement would also leave fellow South Africans belonging to excluded political parties outside the broad governance framework.

We are aware of the propagandists who aver that the 2024 GNU is a coalition with the DA, despite all 11 signatories to the Statement of Intent forming part of the “broad and inclusive” Cabinet announced recently.

As the ANC, we have not veered off our historical mission. Our commitment to this mission, as outlined in the ANC constitution, instructs us to: “Unite all the people of South Africa, Africans in particular, for the complete liberation of the country from all forms of discrimination and national oppression.”

Similarly, the 1996 Constitution guided us, the supreme law of the land, which unambiguously calls upon us to “lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law”.

Any political science student of average ability will tell you that the results of recent polls show no single party was given the mandate to govern the country alone.

The “will of the people” necessitates that all parties, including those from the centre-right, right-wing and liberation movements, form a government of national unity to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”.

It is, therefore, apt that in his inauguration, which pushed the rand below the psychological barrier of R18 to the US dollar and drove the bond markets to a historical high, President Ramaphosa declared: “Above all, the people of South Africa have stressed that they are impatient with political bickering and the endless blame game among politicians and political parties.

“They want us to put their needs and aspirations first, and they want us to work together for the sake of our country.”

Our detractors calling for an all-black coalition clearly do not understand the character of the ANC, a non-racial movement since its formation 112 years ago.

Our intellectual lodestar and ANC founding father, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, once stated: “The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongaas, between the Basutos and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people.

“These divisions and jealousies cause our woes, backwardness, and ignorance today.”

As a country, we heed our ancestors’ call to unite and overcome our past divisions. Our people have spoken. The 2024 GNU represents more than a political arrangement; it is a commitment to the rule of law and national unity.

This unity across party lines is crucial for addressing our nation’s challenges and achieving an inclusive, prosperous South Africa.

Indeed, the creation of the GNU is an advertisement for advanced political maturity, even among those entering the arrangement for the first time.

Even when they did not secure a majority, the ANC’s acceptance of the election results is noteworthy, particularly in the context of liberation movements elsewhere, which often struggle to accept electoral defeat.

This act sets a shining example of how democracy should be respected and is a model for other countries worldwide.

The GNU approach is evident in several successful global implementations where diverse political entities unite to govern collaboratively. For instance, in post-genocide Rwanda, the GNU model has been crucial in rebuilding and fostering unity, enabling various political groups to contribute to national development and reconciliation.

Similarly, the GNU played a crucial role in Northern Ireland’s peace process, bringing together previously antagonistic parties to govern collectively and work towards stability.

As the ANC, we reiterate that unity of purpose is the best approach for the next five years. We are bound by our policies and the pronouncements of those who came before us to remain faithful to the mission of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. We concede that the ANC does not have a magic wand to achieve this alone in our lifetime.

Let Us Do More Together.

Bhengu is the ANC’s national spokesperson and a member of the party’s NEC.

Sunday Tribune