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Community’s hopes rest on coalition Cabinet



It has been a week since Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidential inauguration followed by days of high drama as the nation waits for him to reveal his Cabinet for the country’s seventh administration.

At the time of going to press, negotiations were continuing with parties in the Government of National Unity (GNU) about ministerial and other important positions.

This intense historic moment has delayed any announcement in a complex process involving multiple parties. There are now 10 parties that make up the GNU out of 18 parties in the National Assembly. They are the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party, Patriotic Alliance, Good, the Pan Africanist Congress, Freedom Front Plus, the United Democratic Movement, Rise Mzansi, and Al Jama-ah. The total number of National Assembly seats that the GNU can command is 287 out of 400, a solid majority.

Following a week of enthusiasm over the future possibilities of the GNU, a new reality has set which indicates that sustaining this coalition will demand continuous negotiation and strategic compromise. Though it doesn’t mean the coalition cannot remain intact, insiders predict it will undoubtedly be a difficult task. This is the first time the ANC has been forced to share power at national level, and it remains to be seen if it can.

“There are a lot of parties running around flaunting their peacock feathers and flirting with the president for positions. All this is stalling the process,” said one political insider who wishes to remain anonymous.

“There were many parties who showed no intention of joining the coalition, and now all of a sudden have signed the document of intent to become part of the GNU,” he said.

Fears of an impasse surfaced earlier this week as the ANC and the DA jostled over positions.

The DA says it wants the position of deputy president and Cabinet posts that include energy, mining, public works, transport, and international affairs. It also wants to appoint directors general in the departments it runs to ensure merit-based appointments and prevent ANC cadres from blocking DA policies.

This is the crux, according to experts. The DA cannot be expected to take fewer Cabinet posts than its share of the total vote received by coalition parties, say insiders. Yet pulling out of the coalition in protest might force the ANC to rely on uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Presidency Spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said Ramaphosa wanted to ensure that he had sufficiently consulted all political parties before revealing his new Cabinet. The process should be concluded soon, he said. In the meantime it’s anyone’s guess.

“It’s easier to drive a bus than a ship,” said Darren Bergman, DA former Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition. “The bigger it gets, the more steering it takes, the more consultations and consensus.”

Jewish leaders have expressed cautious optimism this week, still basking in the glow of possibility as the GNU promises hope and rejuvenation.

“There has been an absolute about-turn in South African politics,” said Michael Bagraim, the DA’s labour spokesperson. “Already positivity is in the air, the stock exchange and the rand have reacted positively. The business community is looking to invest, and small businesses are gearing up for growth.

“The forthcoming Cabinet will be made up of half a dozen political parties. This bodes well for political stability and a much better future for all of us. Minority communities, protected by our Constitution, will have representation in the highest echelons of government. We have had almost 15 years of destruction, and we can look forward to an almost instant turnaround.

“Changes will be introduced throughout the civil service, making life easier for all citizens. It will be a long haul, but the end goal will create a better life for all. It won’t come easy, as we need to fix the education system and much of the broken infrastructure. It’s urgent.”

Bergman said he was “cautiously optimistic”.

“Helen Zille is an experienced negotiator. She has been down this road before as mayor of the Western Cape, where she held together a 13-party coalition. It’s still unpredictable, but hopefully the ANC will play fair, and the country will choose the right path towards stability and growth.”

Former Member of Parliament (MP), Madeleine Hicklin who is now a member of the provincial legislature said, “I loved my work in Parliament and I’m going to miss it dramatically, but I believe we need strong people across all three tiers of government – municipal, provincial, and national. So I’m viewing my move to Gauteng in a positive light. It’s not going to change my work ethic – I always give 150% – and nothing is going to change on that score at all. I just have to find my feet in the legislature before I can tell you whether it’s going to be a substantially good move for me.

“South Africa needs stability and a path that encourages job opportunities and economic growth,” she said.

DA Ward Councillor Daniel Schay said there was a general feeling of hope and opportunity.

“I’m tempering my expectations until we get the final composition of Cabinet, but I’m certain if that deal is positive, then we’ll see similar movements at a local-government level which would result in the elimination of the destructive governments at that level.

“A positive GNU result remains infinitely better for the sustainability and longevity of our special community than any of the other possibilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the first judge to be removed in democratic South Africa, John Hlophe, is now the official leader of the opposition, and has expressed interest in amending the Constitution to end private land ownership. He was sworn in along with other MK party MPs, leading a caucus of 58 that included Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla; Des van Rooyen; Black First Land First leader, Andile Mngxitama; and David Skosana, the husband of disgraced former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

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