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GNU is the code word for a ‘bloodless coup’ by the DA

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DA leader Helen Zille, left, at the National Results Operations Centre, Gallagher convention centre, Midrand. Zille has warned the ANC that is cannot make decisions without consulting its GNU partners, the writer says. Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspaper / May 31, 2024

By Sipho Seepe

If ever there was a question on whether the country is destined for a DA-led government, the much-publicised interview of Helen Zille with 702’s Clement Manyathela this past week provides a definitive answer.

You must give it to Zille. She drives a hard bargain. No time for games and she is quick to call a spade a spade. First, Zille was bold to indicate that, had the ANC not signed the binding statement of intent for the establishment of the so-called government of national unity (GNU), the DA would not have supported the ANC’s nomination of Thoko Didiza as a Speaker of the National Assembly. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Zille threw the second volley by revealing that the DA expects to be offered thirty percent of the ministerial positions. She reminded the ANC that to do so would not be an act of charity. The ANC had no choice.

Zille cut through the newly minted false narrative that the ANC was being generous in inviting parties to a GNU. She warned the ANC to stop deluding itself that it has won elections. It therefore cannot take decisions as it pleases. The DA must ratify such decisions. Carefully read, the DA has effectively staged a silent but bloodless coup.

To ensure that she is not misunderstood, Zille went further to point out that the DA expects nothing less than a ministry in the Office of the President. This will be in addition to other portfolios.

Should this happen, this minister would be the country’s de facto Prime Minister with more executive powers than those of the Office of the Deputy President. Zille’s master stroke was deliberately aimed at cutting through the veneer of pretence that has become the trademark of Ramaphosa’s administration.

To put paid to any delusions that some may have, Zille informed both the ANC and Ramaphosa that they do not have a free hand when it comes to the composition of the executive. In this regard, the signed statement of intent for the GNU is unequivocal.

In making appointments, the President will take “into account the number of seats parties have in the National Assembly” and “such appointments should be done in consultation with the leaders of the respective parties”.

The ANC needs to be schooled about the difference between “in consultation with” and “after consultation with”. In law, “in consultation with” implies that “the decision-maker has to seek the agreement or consent of the person or body that is consulted before making a decision”. And it may also mean that “the person or body that is consulted may have a veto power or a review power over the decision”.

‘Let me make a prediction, because the ANC doesn’t know what it stands for anymore, because it can’t revert to principles because it hasn’t got any. Believe me in my lifetime, I will see that party die too. Believe me, no one would ever have said in their wildest dreams that within my lifetime the National Party would be gone, and it is.’ – Helen Zille, 2019

The third salvo was Zille’s indication that the DA “won’t vote to impeach a President we voted for” if the Phala Phala matter is brought back to parliament. The cat is out of the bag. The entire charade of the GNU has nothing to do with the interest of the country. It has more to do with shielding Ramaphosa from accountability in the Phala Phala scandal.

The Phala Phala scandal hangs like a sword of Damocles over Ramaphosa’s head. Ramaphosa’s attempts to cover up a theft of reportedly millions of rands, which were hidden under a mattress on his property renders him ill-qualified to lecture anyone about corruption and accountability. The stench of Phala Phala is too foul to ignore.

A three-person parliamentary panel comprising former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, a retired senior judge Thokozile Masipa, and a senior council Mahlape Sello concluded that there is enough evidence to show that Ramaphosa may have fallen foul of section 96(2)(a) of the Constitution.

He is possibly guilty of serious violation of section 34(1) of PRECCA. The panel also concluded that he is possibly guilty of serious misconduct of violating section 96(2)(b) by acting in a way that is inconsistent with his office.

In addition, Ramaphosa was found to have violated section 96(2)(b) by exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business.

Zille’s comment on the Phala Phala matter is a polite warning to the ANC of Ramaphosa. Decoded it boils to – “Don’t mess with us, we have complete control over you”. To put it bluntly, Ramaphosa is the DA’s prisoner. And as a prisoner, he can only negotiate from the position of weakness.

With the announcement of the GNU, the same mainstream media that gave us Ramaphoria is at it again. It has sought to put lip gloss on the mooted GNU. The plan is to portray Ramaphosa positively to airbrush out a history of colossal failure.

The fact remains, however, that Ramaphosa presided over the precipitous decline of seventeen percent of the ANC from its last electoral share. Any self-respecting leader would have resigned. The current recasting of Ramaphosa in a favourable light is aimed at doctoring the fact that Ramaphosa has demonstrably been the worst president for both the ANC and the country.

No amount of historical revisionism can hide the painful truth that at the helm of the 7th administration sits a highly compromised and fatally wounded president. The whole notion of GNU allows the ANC to sound bullish. But it does not erase the fact that Ramaphosa’s hands are tight.

The second painful truth is that with a measly command of forty percent of the electoral vote, the ANC should disabuse itself of the claim of being a leader of society. The inescapable reality is that a party of liberation has been punished by the very constituency it purports to represent.

The third bitter and painful truth is that a party that failed to deliver on its promise of “a better life for all” when it had an outright majority is unlikely to do so when it is no longer in total control of the government. For the GNU to survive, the ANC must ensure that the interests of beneficiaries of apartheid colonialism are protected.

The DA anticipated this turn of events and primed itself to gain maximum advantage out of the ANC’s disastrous performance. In 2019, Zille had this to say. “Let me make a prediction, because the ANC doesn’t know what it stands for anymore, because it can’t revert to principles because it hasn’t got any.

“Believe me in my lifetime, I will see that party die too. Believe me, no one would ever have said in their wildest dreams that within my lifetime the National Party would be gone, and it is.”

As far back as 2016, the DA knew that all it required was twenty percent of the share of the electoral vote to push the ANC over the edge. This much it has almost achieved.

The ANC is facing a self-created crisis. Ordinarily, any party that has been punished by its traditional constituency would want to make amends. Embracing what it considers to be an enemy camp wouldn’t be the first port of call.

The ANC has also sought to disregard the counsel of its allies in the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party.

The choice before the ANC could not have been clearer. It was either you remain true to the historical mandate of advancing the liberation of black people in general, and Africans in particular, or you choose to go to bed with a party that the former President Nelson Mandela described as a “party of white bosses and black stooges”, Mandela warned.

“No matter how they cover up by getting a few black stooges, they (the whites) remain the bosses … they remain a white party.” Mandela must be turning in his grave.

With the ANC leaders having been transformed into modern-day security guards and shop stewards for white capital and white privilege, the responsibility of advancing the interests of the poor invariably shifts to the black-led parties political alliance comprising of The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Al Jama-ah, United Democratic Movement (UDM), United African Transformation (UAT), African Transformation Movement (ATM), and the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party.

These parties draw their constituencies from the majority who remain trapped in conditions of squalor. We have been here before. A rehash of a failed “rainbow nation” would lead to more of the same. This is the stuff that creates revolutions.

* Professor Sipho Seepe is a Higher Education and Strategy Consultant.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of The African