SA is not at 5 minutes to midnight

Published Jun 4, 2024


Douglas Gibson

The sky is not about to fall. The sun will still rise tomorrow. And despite Jacob Zuma’s notorious and blasphemous prophecy, the ANC will not rule until Jesus comes again.

That the ANC has lost so badly and is unlikely ever to regain its majority is not bad news for our country. It is good news. Looking at the mess this once-impregnable party has made of South Africa, it is not surprising that the voters have punished it. There is scarcely an aspect of life or government at every level that the ANC has touched that is not failing.

Unlike some, I am optimistic about the opportunity for a new and better chapter to open. The proviso is that the communists and others in the ANC do not pressure that party into entering into a coalition of doom with the EFF and the MKP. That would be utterly unacceptable to most voters and spell death to our chances of growth, investment, and tackling unemployment.

Such a coalition would see the rand plunging in value, even more skilled taxpayers leaving the country, and investors putting their money in other safer, developing economies.

A government of national unity (GNU) that included the MKP and the EFF would make it impossible for the DA to join. Can you imagine a Cabinet with Julius Malema in it?

He is already insufferable, even though his party had a reverse in the election, losing a number of seats, and one cannot imagine Cyril Ramaphosa, or anyone else, controlling his ego or his actions.

Remember also that he demands his side-kick, Floyd Shivambu, be the minister of finance. The hapless Des van Rooyen was the minister of finance for a weekend, but he is now a leading member of the MKP. One wonders whether Zuma will insist that Van Rooyen be anointed again. Floyd versus Des would be a choice made in Hades and one can only imagine the crashing of the rand if either of them were appointed.

There is talk that Ramaphosa will resign or be pushed out. It is difficult to imagine who would succeed him and be acceptable to both the EFF and the MKP. Paul Mashatile, the deputy president, is mentioned. That would be an extremely unwelcome move. He has been linked to corruption from the time he was an MEC in Gauteng and he enjoys a multi-millionaire lifestyle rather than the more modest style of a professional politician.

There are only two scenarios that make sense. The one I prefer is a coalition between the ANC, the DA and the IFP. The ACDP and the Freedom Front could be added. If Ramaphosa resigns, there is one figure who would possibly be acceptable, and that is former president Kgalema Motlanthe, who emerged from his various offices with his reputation intact. Although he is a bit long-in-the-tooth at the age of 74, he would be acceptable to most South Africans.

The second scenario, much more difficult, is a minority government of the ANC, with the DA in opposition, but with an undertaking to vote for the Budget and to support the government in no-confidence motions. All of this would naturally require a good relationship and co-operation, with the DA being consulted and giving input before decisions are made.

The coalition negotiations will be exhausting and time-consuming, coming as they do after a lengthy election campaign and a drawn-out counting process, made controversial by a swathe of no-hope parties plus Zuma making unsubstantiated allegations of vote rigging.

Whatever happens, the interests of South Africa, not those of parties or politicians, must come first.

Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand