‘A coalition could work, not a GNU’

People queuing to cast their votes for 2024 General Elections. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/ Independent Newspapers

People queuing to cast their votes for 2024 General Elections. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 13, 2024


Durban — Analysts say the proposed Government of National Unity (GNU) will not work in South Africa under the current political system.

This is despite the country having had a GNU led by the ANC government of the time between 1994 and 1999.

Political analyst Dr Zamokuhle Mbandlwa said the difference between the old GNU and the recently proposed one was that, during the transition to democracy in 1994, it was well prepared for and necessary.

Mbandlwa said the GNU was also a way of making sure that the new wave of black leaders in 1994 acquired the necessary skills to help them lead the government.

This period, according to Mbandlwa, opened up space for political parties from different ideological perspectives to experience the legislature at the same time, even for skills sharing in terms of those who had no experience.

“Although people like going back to the 1994-99 version (of the GNU), the current one is confusing.

“It is like the president of the ANC (President Cyril Ramaphosa) is trying to put other parties under pressure, as he is under pressure to come up with a proper solution,” Mbandlwa said.

University of Limpopo-based political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba said the proposed GNU could be hampered by a lived reality of racial division facing post-apartheid South Africa.

In Makgoba’s view, the DA cannot co-exist with other influential movements in the country.

He told the Daily News that the proposed GNU would not work as a result of progressive movements standing for something different from what, for instance, the DA would expect them to represent.

“There is no GNU that could make South Africans happy. Only a coalition is a solution in a situation like this,” Makgoba said.

Zimbabwe’s GNU of 2009 – which came into being following former president Thabo Mbeki’s mediation efforts – proved to be a disaster, according to the analyst.

Makgoba said the GNU in Zimbabwe failed because the political dynamics in Harare were different from those in Pretoria.

“In Zimbabwe, their politics works differently from South Africa. Now, it (a GNU) is not going to work because South Africa is a racist society and the DA cannot work, for instance, with a party like the EFF or the MKP, based on their constituency’s belief that such parties will bring something bad for the state,” Makgoba said.

When it comes to the Lesotho GNU of 2014, the analyst believes it would be a mistake to use a country like Lesotho as a reference for South Africa.

This was based not only on the size of the country but also on its political style and background.

While GNUs have failed in African countries, there is a track record of successful GNUs in European countries such as Germany and Italy.

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