South Africa

Government of national unity: ‘Inexperienced partners’ in hot seats

A new government of national unity will take shape over the next couple of weeks after the ANC played its hand, but what the final look and feel of the executive and legislative branches of state will look like is anyone’s guess now.

Parties who were in opposition until a month ago, will become accountable to voters, not just as public representatives, but as the people responsible for aspects of government, said political analyst Dr Oscar van Heerden of the University of Johannesburg.

“It’s a game-changer because parties who may end up with ministerial positions and running departments will be directly accountable to both the president and the people,” he said.

Participating a double-edged sword

Participating in government can be a double-edged sword.

There are areas, like the financial cluster, that everyone wants, Van Heerden said. It includes the departments of trade, industry and competition; public works and infrastructure; and National Treasury.

“Whoever holds the purse strings and the assets can call the shots when it comes to policymaking,” he said.

Second prize would be areas like public enterprises; transport; and employment and labour.

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“What would attract the most attention from a public point of view would be social services, like health and social development, which nobody would want as a first choice. It’s the toughest area to shine,” Van Heerden said.

“Presently, the only experienced partner in a government of national unity besides the ANC would be the second-largest party, the DA [Democratic Alliance], that has governed the Western Cape for 15 years and was re-elected for another term last week.

“That leaves the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters], MK [uMkhonto weSizwe party], and then two smaller players who achieved votes above the two percent threshold, the IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] and the PA [Patriotic Alliance],” Van Heerden said.

PA wanted to see what is proposed

Charles Cilliers of the PA said before participating in the government of national unity, his party wanted to see what the actual proposal looked like.

DA leader John Steenhuisen told Saturday Citizen that positions had not been discussed; the party had set out its framework for negotiations.

The DA’s construct is based on the principles of the constitution, and it lists an overhaul of the public service, an operating model of how a unity government could work, as well as several burning issues that would have to be immediately addressed – like the unbundling of Eskom, a skilled visa programme and a water regulator, among others.

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The framework also called for greater transparency on all levels of government, the inclusion of multi-parties in budgeting and title deed reform to expand land ownership.

More stringent oversight and scrutiny, as well as the devolution of several presently centralised delivery functions, like law enforcement and passenger rail services, are among its demands.

Ultimately, no policy agenda would succeed unless it could be implemented effectively and protected from the destructive effects of corruption and political interference, the party said.

VF+, ActionSA remain in opposition

The Freedom Front Plus and ActionSA, along with other smaller players, remain in opposition.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said his party would be comfortable there.

“They haven’t seen anything yet,” he said of his party’s intent.

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“We will be the public’s watchdog and fight corruption from the vantage point of opposition … and under Athol Trollip’s leadership in parliament, that is exactly what we will do.

“We have vowed never to work with the ANC.”

Meanwhile, social media is divided with a hue and cry about a government that includes the DA.

A different story

Kerbside vox pops with random members of the public told a different story, though.

Many supported the two largest parties coming together to fix – as one respondent said: “The massive heap of broken sh*t that is South Africa”.

An Ekurhuleni community WhatsApp group had a thread about the impact on local government and hoped that, should a new government include the DA, alliances would shift on a municipal level to mirror national government.

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