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ANC NEC votes for a Government of National Unity amid a divided opposition

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Simon Nare

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the ANC National Executive Committee has chosen safer ground and opted for a Government of Nation Unity (GNU) over a coalition that would have forced it to share power with either one or more of the eight parties that got a significant number of votes in the elections.

Ramaphosa, announcing the decision at the closing of the NEC meeting at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, on Thursday night pointed out that the voters have, through their votes, instructed political leaders to work together since there was no outright majority winner at the 29 May National Elections.

“We are called upon as this leadership and as a movement to give effect to the will and the wishes of the voters of this country. A Government of National Unity is the most viable, most effective and most powerful way of meeting the expectations of all South Africans at this moment,” Ramaphosa said.

Before the NEC meeting tensions were heightened in and outside the ANC’s highest decision-making conference with speculation rife that Ramaphosa would choose to get into bed with the party’s main opposition, the DA which got the largest number of votes at 22%.

Some ANC veterans such as Lindiwe Sisulu and Siphiwe Nyanda penned their opposing views on why the DA would be a bad or good choice for the ANC to bed. Other NEC members, speaking off the record, threatened to raise hell in the meeting if a DA coalition got the nod while others even vowed to ask the President to step down over the matter and the party’s dismal performance at the elections.

However, it seems the fires were put off because the decision didn’t take long to be made as the NEC meeting had wrapped up by 10pm and Ramaphosa was ready to close the gathering and meet the media.

The move means all political parties with seats in the National Assembly will be invited to form the unity government and are entitled to negotiate ministerial positions. This is set to throw the cat among the pigeons as some of the parties such as the DA and the EFF have sworn by the falling stars that they will never work with each other.

Immediately after Ramaphosa’s announcement, EFF leader Julius Malema took to X and in a rant described the ANC move as arrogant and vowing not to work with the enemy.

“The arrogance continues even after the South African voters issued warning signs. You can’t dictate the way forward as if you have won elections. We are not desperate for anything, ours is a generational mission. We can’t share power with the enemy,” tweeted Malema.

The fighters are however expected to have a meeting of their central elections task force and central command team where possible coalitions are to be discussed. The party’s position is likely to emerge out of this meeting.

Former President Jacob Zuma’s UMkhonto we Sizwe that had earlier refused to talk to the ANC also issued a statement that it was ready to listen. However, ANC SG Fikile Mbalula was quoted as saying in a social media statement that Zuma was refusing to come to the party.

ANC’s alliance partner Cosatu was also caught off guard by the NEC position with the federation’s parliamentary spokesman Matthew Parks in an immediate response after Ramaphosa’s speech, saying they were disappointed by the NEC decision.

“As Cosatu, we are a little bit disappointed that the NEC, which originally invited us to join today and then decided not to invite us, has now pronounced its position. We would have hoped the ANC would engage alliance partners but we do hope tomorrow they will remember that they have an alliance because we are still formulating our views,” he told a television station last night.

Parks said there was fundamentally nothing wrong with the concept of government of national unity which includes all parties of a certain threshold who respect the constitution. It remained to be seen, he said, if the DA and EFF who had said they would not work with each other would heed the call to join the government.

Ramaphosa might not have gotten what he is rumored to have wanted but the NEC decision has certainly opened the door for the DA to be part of the sharing of power if they agree, a move that will not please many who have already strongly opposed the inclusion of John Steenhuisen’s party.

Ramaphosa said the NEC has mandated the negotiating task teams to engage all political parties on the proposal of a GNU and the modalities thereof.

”The ANC notes that we have ideological and political differences with several parties in our political landscape. However, we will not preclude the possibility of working with any party so long as it is in the public interest.

“Agreements between parties should be in writing. They should be public, transparent and include measures for holding parties accountable,” he said.

Ramaphosa has come full circle with this decision to form a GNU as he was part of the negotiations that ushered in the first administration which resulted in the ANC forming a co-government with the Nationalist Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

All the leaders of the first GNU – Nelson Mandela, Willem De Klerk and Mangosuthu Buthelezi have long passed.

Now the ball has been thrown into the court of all the other parties with different ideologies and policies on the right, centre and left of the political spectrum, to come together and put their differences aside for the sake of South Africa.

The country is yet to see how Ramaphosa would fare in his last term as the head of a GNU, if indeed this arrangement will come to fruition and if he will go the whole hog.

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