/ 13 June 2024

Breakthrough in GNU talks ahead of presidential vote, Mbalula says  

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Fikile Mbalula said the detail was still being concluded ahead of parliament’s sitting on Friday, but would be made public once it had been signed by all of the parties involved. (Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

The ANC said on Thursday it had made a “breakthrough” in its efforts to create a government of national unity (GNU) and its negotiators were “working against time” to conclude a framework agreement ahead of Friday’s first sitting of the National Assembly.

The party has held talks with all but two of 17 political parties who have representation in parliament and has managed to secure broad support for the GNU from the “majority” of them, who are likely to vote for its presidential candidate, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has already indicated its support for the unity government being put together by the ANC, along with the Patriotic Alliance (PA), with the Democratic Alliance (DA) also endorsing cooperation with the governing party.

The ANC’s national executive committee met in Cape Town on Thursday evening to hear report backs from its negotiating team, headed by secretary general Fikile Mbalula, on progress made over the past week.

Mbalula told a media briefing at the conclusion of the meeting that the ANC had achieved a “breakthrough” in its talks with most of the parties, but declined to provide any further information about the agreement.

He said the detail was still being concluded ahead of parliament’s sitting on Friday, but would be made public once it had been signed by all of the parties involved.

These did not include uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party or the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which the ANC had met but with which it had been unable to conclude any kind of agreement.

“We have accepted that and we move on,” Mbalula said, adding that he was confident that the other parties would vote with the ANC in the first National Assembly session.

“We hope that we will work with many of them in the election of the president and the speaker,” he said.

Other parties that had supported the GNU included the United Democratic Movement, the Freedom Front Plus and the National Freedom Party (NFP), while Rise Mzansi and the Cape Coloured Congress had expressed concerns over how it would work.

Mbalula said the ANC had approached the parties with “decency” and “maturely” and with “no arrogance” in an attempt to find common ground with them.

“The ANC is humbled by the fact that the spirit of engagement with all of South Africa’s political parties have been characterised by the common commitment to put the interests of the people first and to ensure that our country comes together to address the common challenges it faces,” he said.

“We have ourselves moved forward and invited everyone to participate. Beyond that, we need to engage in a national dialogue. The ANC is trying to pause and reflect on this moment. This political reflection will continue.” 

Mbalula said the majority of the parties had focused on the principles — including constitutionality and commitment to the rule of law — rather than approaching the negotiations in a “transactional manner”.

“We defined the concept and at the same time everybody embraced the concept,” he said.

“That to us represents a major breakthrough.”

Mbalula said the work “doesn’t stop tomorrow” because “these are uncharted waters” in which the ANC now had to work with other parties in a “framework of cooperation” for the first time.

The ANC would also lead a government of provincial unity in Gauteng, where it would receive the backing of the same coalition partners. 

It is set to break its coalition in the province’s municipalities with the EFF — Ekurhuleni finance MMC Nkululkeo Dunga was the first to go on Wednesday night — as part of the Gauteng agreement with its new partners.

In KwaZulu-Natal the ANC has agreed to join the government being led by the IFP, which also involved the NFP and the DA.

Earlier in the day, NFP president Ivan Barnes confirmed that the party’s single provincial MP, Mbali Shinga, would vote for IFP KwaZulu-Natal provincial chairperson Thami Ntuli as premier.

This is despite an attempt by Jacob Zuma to convince Barnes to work with the MK party on Wednesday — and an earlier rejection of Ntuli as premier candidate by the NFP over existing local government tensions with the IFP.

The decision gives the IFP-led coalition 41 of 80 votes in the provincial legislature, a slim majority over the MK party (37) and the EFF (two), but enough to form a government of provincial unity.

In a separate media briefing on Thursday evening, EFF leader Julius Malema said he had made clear during talks with Ramaphosa that his party would not participate in a government of national unity that included the DA, accusing it of promoting “white supremacy”.