Analysts disagree on whether GNU will be good for SA

Political analysts have divergent opinions on whether a GNU will be positive for South Africa and its people. File Picture: Siyasanga Mbambani/DoC.

Political analysts have divergent opinions on whether a GNU will be positive for South Africa and its people. File Picture: Siyasanga Mbambani/DoC.

Published Jun 9, 2024


TWO independent political analysts have offered widely divergent opinions on a potential government of national unity (GNU), following Thursday’s announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that this was the “best option” for the country.

The African National Congress (ANC), which Ramaphosa heads, failed to win an outright majority in last week’s national and provincial elections, and has been exploring coalition and GNU options .

Contacted for comment, two political experts had divergent opinions on whether a GNU or a coalition would be a positive thing for South Africa and its citizens.

Striking a positive tone, Institute for Global Dialogue senior researcher Sanusha Naidu said there would be hard discussions and hard choices to make, but these could pave the way for a working democracy.

She said it was important that political parties reached a compromise on what underlined a working GNU.

“Some of the political parties have bigger players who have been there for too long and they know how the game works, but this has nothing to do with experience. All of them combined would not want to be outplayed. Any clash of egos will collapse the coalition,” said Naidu

On whether a GNU would have a positive impact on the country, she said there was no indication of an alternative in Ramaphosa’s announcement.

“It’s not just South Africa that needs to think and learn about the current political dynamics; the global community needs to learn from South Africa, where even the smallest parties with lower percentages are participating in the process.”

She said parties such as the Umkonto weSizwe Party were not clear on how to proceed with regards to the talks about a government of national unity.

On parties that were not willing to be part of a GNU, she said no party had a dominant majority and therefore they needed to work together or be left out.

“Do these parties want to be in or left out? In my observation, these parties may want to show they are strong parties that are serious about being in government. They must put South Africa first and that means reliable energy supply and all other important services.

“I think some parties are trying to pre-empt the coalition talks. If the criteria is that they don't want to work with certain individuals, then this might turn out to be a challenge for those parties because when you negotiate, you avoid sounding like a big brother,” Naidu said.

Reflecting on possible future conflicts within a GNU, Naidu said that even in a single majority government, cabinet reshuffles were normal, adding that a coalition government risked collapsing, However, parties needed to negotiate in good faith.

In stark contrast, independent political analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Limpopo, Dr Metji Makgoba, said he believed the country was headed for a “disastrous future, marked by political instability and the lack of a coherent political agenda”.

Makgoba said tensions between the ANC, DA and the EFF showed the parties had not been able to find common ground that could drive a “national interest”.

“The DA and the ANC have a history of bullying their smaller partners when they enter into a coalition. They think that once elected, they are the ruling party with a majority. Furthermore, the ideological differences between the political parties that have won seats in Parliament suggests that the nation is headed toward political uncertainty.

“At worst, the coalition’s partners have not demonstrated any decency and maturity to move beyond their personal-party interests, suggesting that South Africa is not culturally ready for a coalition government.

“The complex nature of the coalition will make it difficult to build a black agenda in South Africa. The coalition government will be reformist and consolidate the relations of settler-colonialism, white supremacy, and racial capitalism,” Makgoba said.

He said this was because the practice of democracy under the arrangement of neoliberal capitalism had hidden the political and cultural sources of structural inequality that defined colonialism and apartheid, which persisted in post-apartheid South Africa. “That has been the story since 1994. For these reasons, the problems of inequality are going to continue as usual, even though the ANC has lost its majority.

“This is because we will likely see the former ruling party partnering with the DA [in a] neoliberal alliance. This partnership is likely to end what is left of the ANC’s radical and leftist heritage, which has been implemented superficially since 1994.”

Makgoba said that due to the inertia of the racial disparities, the likely partnership between the ANC and the DA would be a disaster for black people.

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