Mon. Oct 21st, 2019

Explainer: How a Government of National Unity could work for South Africa

cyril ramaphosa mmusi maimane government of national unity gnu sa elections 2019Although it is highly unlikely, it doesn’t hurt to imagine.

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Political experts have called on the winning political party to consider moving towards a Government of National Unity (GNU) once the dust has settled around the SA Elections 2019.

Note: Follow our live coverage of the 2019 general election results here.

As the results capturing process edges towards 100%, it seems very likely that the African National Congress (ANC) will be the party to govern South Africa for another five years.

As it is shown in the chart below, the ruling party has lost a considerable amount of support since it first came into power in 1994.

While there are many contributing factors to this, which we will leave for another day, it presents a bigger problem when one considers the ramifications this has on the function of the National Assembly.

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A weaker majority in Parliament makes it incredibly difficult to pass laws and policies that are meant to benefit the people of South Africa.

Instead of this fruitless tug-of-war, political analyst, Lumkile Mondi, believes that it is time for the ANC to consider joining forces with its main opposition to form a GNU.

What is a Government of National Unity?

According to SA History, the concept of a united assembly in governance is not new to South Africa.

Former president, Nelson Mandela, together with his predecessor, FW de Klerk, through their differences, had managed to form a GNU in 1994.

Related: Elections 2019: Here are the parties who missed the mark

The united government was headed up by Mandela, with De Klerk, the former leader of the National Party (NP), standing in as the deputy president of South Africa.

Mandela’s Cabinet included ministers from political parties that, during the first democratic elections, managed to attain at least 10% of the votes.

At the time, the function of the GNU was to oversee the country’s progress in its transition from apartheid rule to democracy.

It was hoped that by promoting inclusivity, the first democratic government would be able to fast-track the transformation of the country’s poor socio-economic standing.

However, this system proved to be inefficient, after De Klerk, in 1996, announced the NP’s withdrawal from the grand coalition, citing issues of exclusion from key joint-decision making and his party’s intention to stand as an official opposition against the ANC.

Related: Elections 2019: Death of IFP member leads to shock “political violence” claim

“Continued participation would be equivalent to detention on a kind of political death row. The survival of multi-party democracy, which depends on the existence of strong and credible opposition, was being threatened by our continued participation in the GNU”,” De Klerk said.

After failing in gaining momentum since the NP’s exit in 1996, the ANC collapsed the GNU in 1999.

Where else in the world is it practised?

The rise of a united government often stems from a society that is sobering up from a long period of tyranny and war.

Since 2009, when Jacob Zuma was inaugurated as the president of South Africa, the state of the country’s economy has declined considerably.

High inflation and the rand’s inability to gain much footing in international markets has kept South Africa on the brink of economic collapse.

This has largely been attributed to rampant levels of corruption and the inadequacy of those in power.

Related: “SA makes Africa proud” – Zimbabwean observer reacts to SA Elections 2019

A united government, however, would allow for competent members of the opposition to take up positions in Cabinet where their contribution would have a positive impact on the recovery of South Africa.

“A grand coalition of some sort could really support the country. President Ramaphosa, with some elements of the DA that are capable, coming in to really help us rebuild, [could] see us go back to the promise of 1996, where we’re promising South African people to make a difference, to redress, grow the economy and create opportunities,” Mondi said.

In modern politics, South Sudan is another country — currently sobering up from warfare — that is on the verge of instituting a united government.

As reported by Al Jazeera, after a peace agreement was reached by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, Riek Machar, a deadline was set to 12 May for the formation of a GNU.

Related: Government praises South Africans for participating in SA Elections 2019

Six years after a war that tore the country apart, leaving around 400 000 casualties in its wake, South Sudan looks towards a new dawn, with both leaders prepared to join forces in ushering in a new wave of progressive governance.

However, Kiir and Machar have asked for a delay in the formation of the GNU, citing that more time is needed to disarm, house and train the country’s different forces.

As we look on at the process of transformation that has taken shape in South Sudan, we can only leave a South Africa with Ramaphosa as president, and DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, as his deputy, to imagination.

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