/ 24 June 2024

Ramaphosa urges unity in coalition talks amid cabinet portfolio deadlock

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday ongoing wrangling over power sharing and positions should not be allowed to derail the formation of a government of national unity (GNU).

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa urged partners in the new 10-party coalition to show their commitment to the process and to the country.

“South Africans are watching. We should not waste our energies on those who stand in the way of our country’s progress or lose momentum over differences that can be resolved,” he wrote.

The call came amid an impasse in talks between ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA) over the allocation of cabinet portfolios in Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

The weekend yielded no breakthrough in negotiations about the division of portfolios, resulting in the delay of the announcement of the Gauteng executive which had been scheduled for Sunday.

Ramaphosa said the electorate had made it plain in the May elections that it wanted parties to work together, by giving none an outright majority.

“South Africans made clear with their votes in last month’s elections that they want their elected representatives to put aside narrow interests and work together to build the country,” he said. 

“To do so, the GNU cannot be preoccupied with jockeying for positions, tussles over appointments or squabbles within and between parties.

“The success of the GNU will be measured by the extent to which we are prepared to focus not on who will govern, but on how we will govern, together.” 

Ramaphosa was elected by the National Assembly for another term after the ANC, DA and Inkatha Freedom Party agreed a statement of intent to form a broad coalition.

In the space of 10 days, six other parties have signed on — the Patriotic Alliance, the Pan Africanist Congress, Al Jama-ah, the GOOD Party, the Freedom Front Plus, the United Democratic Movement and Rise Mzansi.

At the same time, the ANC and DA have fallen out over clause 16 of the pact, with the latter insisting that it commits the president to giving it a number of ministries that broadly reflect its share of votes. ANC sources have suggested the party does not interpret the text in the same manner. 

Ramaphosa said the process remains guided by the statement of intent and that the days ahead will be critical.

“As parties finalise the modalities of the GNU guided by the Statement of Intent, the days and weeks that lie ahead will be crucial,” he wrote.

“The country’s hopes are pinned on the success of the GNU. Our stated commitment to work together constructively and for South Africa’s benefit has generated a great deal of goodwill that we should not squander.”