A Government of National Unity with No One

The writer is of the view that ANC leadership is not capable of entering into a coalition with anyone.

The writer is of the view that ANC leadership is not capable of entering into a coalition with anyone.

Published Jun 9, 2024


By Christopher Malikane

The self-inflicted failure of the ANC leadership to achieve more than 50% of the votes has created a situation where the politics of convenience and opportunism thrives.

While this situation has long been anticipated, it appears that the ANC leadership has been ill-prepared to confront it and, it also appears, it will navigate this phase equipped with defective tools of analysis, wielded by materially and ideologically compromised “strategists” and those with a phobia of African assertiveness, towards its demise.

I argue that the proposal by the ANC leadership of a Government of National Unity (GNU) is undermined by how it ideologically characterizes political parties.

Secondly, a GNU is the worst platform to promote national stability.

Thirdly, the ANC is riddled and is being suffocated to death by the ever-growing internal ideological divide, which divide also expresses the ever-growing divide between the right-wing ideological orientation of the dominant faction in the leadership and the left-wing- orientation of the mass base of the ANC.

Based on these three factors, I make two conclusions.

Firstly, that the dominant faction of the ANC leadership has put the ANC in a position that objectively seeks a GNU with no other party but itself.

Secondly, only the upsurge of the left-wing mass base of the ANC against the dominant right-wing leadership can provide a path for the unity of the broad African Left forces based on an emancipatory programme that is capable of uniting Africans in this country.

The ANC Leadership Paints Itself in a Corner

The ANC remains the biggest factor in the whole politics of this period, simply because it commands the largest vote (40%).

However, prior to the elections it committed a series of mistakes, key of which is to paint the whole political spectrum, leaving where it stands, with a variety of broad strokes of a right-wing brush.

It was reported in the media last year that the report of the ANC leadership on coalitions, drafted by David Makhura, considered the EFF a “proto-fascist” organization.

This view that the EFF is “proto-fascist” appears to have been introduced by the SACP in 2015.

The ANC leadership has not rebutted these media reports.

Regarding the MKP there is a strong view within the ANC leadership and its allies, that the MKP is a tribal based party inspired by “Zulu tribalism”.

The Chairperson of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, expressed this opinion at the IEC Operations Centre.

This characterization of the MKP follows a characterization of the unrest that occurred in the wake of the arrest of Jacob Zuma in 2021, as driven by ethnic mobilization.

Once again the SACP notes “the factional conduct and ethnic nationalism of those driving the MKP…whose origins can be traced back to factionalism, the corruption of state capture and resistance to accountability”

These characterizations place the EFF and the MKP to the right of the political spectrum, leaving virtually nothing else on the left.

Hence, I argue that the ANC has painted itself in a corner with broad strokes of a right-wing brush in virtually the entire political spectrum, except where it stands.

This includes all the smaller parties that are in the Moonshot Pact.

For, it would not make sense to reject the DA while at the same time embracing the FF+, or even the IFP or ACDP.

In other words, by their own logic, the ANC leaders are not prepared to enter into co-operation with the majority of parties with some electoral weight.

If the ANC leadership were to co-operate with either the EFF or the MKP, it would have to explain to the people how it can do so with tribalists and proto-fascists.

If the ANC leadership co-operates with members of the Moonshot Pact, not least of which is the DA, they have to explain to the people how they would do so with neoliberals and racists.

Thus, the ANC leadership effectively seeks, in a large but minority corner it has painted itself into, a GNU with no one.

Behind the Proposal of a Government of National Unity

A Government of National Unity (GNU) is a platform that accommodates all parties that have an appetite to participate in governance.

Because this arrangement allows for parties with diametrically opposite ideologies to participate in governance, it is objectively the least ideologically coherent political arrangement.

There is a very erroneous, opportunistic and politically convenient view that “now is not a time for ideology, but a time for mature leadership”.

However, ideology is the basis of any political party, even if such an ideology is eclectic, i.e. not drawn from one source. The GNU of 1994 collapsed within two years largely because of fundamental differences in ideology between the Nationalist Party and the ANC.

Because a GNU is the least ideologically coherent arrangement, it follows that it is the least stable. Those who wish for the stability of the politics but at the same time support the GNU proposal have to explain how they bridge this logical gap in their thinking. A coalition of parties with some degree of serious ideological overlap, is the more stable arrangement but, as I have shown, the ANC leadership is not capable of entering into a coalition with anyone.

Interestingly, a key value that the ANC leadership puts as a condition for its GNU is “respect for the Constitution”. As to how the Constitution will be respected by convening less than 350 elected representatives and saying they are a “National Assembly”, remains to be seen. Needless to say, the ANC leadership doggedly defends the Constitution knowing very well it was a product of compromises that carries within it defective right-wing elements.

At its core is the protection and entrenchment White and capitalist supremacy—it is a transitional social contract contingent upon the balance of social forces.

It is for this reason that constitutions are not fetishes, in front of which people must prostrate and bow, in solemn worship. However, because now is a time for political expedience and opportunism for the right wing leaders of the ANC and the DA, they are quite happy to ignore fundamental provisions of their own constitution.

The reason the ANC leadership proposes the GNU is not because of the need for national unity and stability, rather it is because of the growing internal ideological divide it finds itself in.

The neoliberal faction of the ANC leadership benefits materially from white monopoly capital and these benefits are based on its continued dominance within the ANC.

It pushes an IMF/OECD hatched programme of structural reforms, aimed at dismantling state monopoly capital (Eskom, Transnet, etc.) in the interest of private white monopoly and it has defended and implemented neoliberalism from the early 1990s.

It attempts to put the people to sleep by promising what appears progressive, such as the NHI and the BIG, but behind these it facilitates and legalizes massive looting by private white capital.

As long as this faction remains dominant, as it has been for the last 30 years, the core policies of the ANC in government at least, will remain exactly the same as those of the DA.

Herein lies the theoretical weaknesses of the left faction that is in the ANC leadership. They correctly oppose co-operation with the DA, but devastatingly they do not see that the policies that are currently implemented by the dominant faction within the ANC leadership are in fact, DA policies.

They tolerate the DA within the ANC and reject the DA outside of the ANC. Is it not that the ANC is “a broad church” anyway? For example, not long ago, the DA proposed “fiscal rules” to discipline government spending. They call their neoliberal rightwing Bill the “Responsible Spending Bill”.

Guess what? In this year of elections, National Treasury under the leadership of the ANC committed to work with the DA to implement it.

Such policy examples are many and they were the trigger that led metalworkers in NUMSA to try convince the rest of the COSATU unions to leave the ANC-led Alliance.

What happened was that COSATU ended up expelling the metalworkers. The dominant right-wing leadership of the ANC is already working with the DA in the state. Those within the ANC who oppose any co-operation with the DA must think about this.

A suffocating ailment that causes ideological paralysis

So the proposal for a GNU is an attempt by the right-wing dominant faction of the ANC leadership to manage the ever-growing internal contradictions within the entire leadership and the ever-growing contradictions between it and the left-wing mass-base of the ANC.

The inherent inability of the ANC leadership to choose an ideological side and on that basis pursue co-operation with parties that are closest to it, is a structural ailment that is crippling the ANC. It is an ailment that was slowly, and now quickly suffocating the ANC to death.

It has eroded the standing of the ANC in the eyes of the people as “a disciplined force of the left”.

Furthermore, having painted almost all the parties as right-wing, it now sits isolated with 40% of the votes, potentially driving the country into a re-vote. The proposal for a GNU is therefore not to promote national stability and unity, but it is primarily a mechanism to maintain the crumbling stability and growing disunity within the ANC itself.

The only way to resolve this internal crisis is the upsurge of the left-wing mass base of the ANC against the dominant right-wing that would forcefully shift the ANC to the left.

If all the political parties that are in opposition to the ANC want to accelerate its demise, now is the time.

The ANC is gasping for air because the ANC leadership has placed it in the weakest position of ideological indecisiveness ever, informed by incorrect and highly divisive ideological characterizations of other political parties, which close opportunities for the ANC to foster co-operation with those parties, without being openly opportunist and ideologically inconsistent.

The ANC is now at the centre, floating in the air, with DA-aligned leaders pulling it one way and MKP-EFF aligned leaders pulling it the other way, and those against both the EFF-MKP and the DA paralyzing it completely—driving the country towards a re-vote. The rejection of the EFF, MKP and PA by the DA and the rejection of the DA by the EFF and the MKP, would force the ANC leadership once more to get out of the corner and take an ideological side, which would cause an implosion because the dominant faction will definitely drive the ANC into co-operation with the DA and its Moonshot Pact.


Section 46(1) of the Constitution provides for the minimum and maximum number of elected representatives to the National Assembly who must comprise the National Assembly. No less than 350 and no more than 400 such elected representatives can constitute the National Assembly.

If the MKP decides to throw a lifeline to the ANC by making some or all its members available in the National Assembly to guarantee that the composition of the National Assembly meets the constitutional requirements for the required number of members of the National Assembly, this will empower the DA to vote for Cyril Ramaphosa to be State President, to continue implementing rightwing neoliberal DA policies in a minority ANC government on the leash of the DA.

This is the White Supremacist historical project and agenda. With Ramaphosa as ANC president, what remains for the DA to do is to formalize its control of the ANC.

However, if the MKP insists on boycotting the inaugural meeting of the elected representatives, the National Assembly cannot be constitutionally constituted, as the elected representatives would be below 350 on the day.

Once those less than 350 elected representatives call themselves a “National Assembly”, they will find themselves having violated Section 46(1) of the constitution they claim to defend, and they will drive the country into chaos by unconstitutionally carrying pout the business of a constitutionally composed National Assembly, including the election of a new President and the entire Executive.

What is to be done?

Fundamentally, the Left in the ANC needs to mobilize and organize itself and eject the rightwing neoliberal leadership in order to prevent the installation of a minority ANC government on a DA leash, running government on behalf of the White supremacist capitalist class and its imperialist allies. This will be a continuation of the domination of African people in this country.

Such internal ANC mobilization will have very rich fertile soil outside the ANC itself, as the majority of African people in this country have suffered the continuation of “colonialism of a special type” in the past 30 years.

In practice, concretely, this also means uniting the African Left vote with the Left inside the ANC, to form a coalition government.

This, then, is the historical, moral, philosophical, ideological and political rationale for the only viable coalition government, or government of national unity, a coalition government of the ANC, EFF and MKP, on a programme capable of uniting the Africans in this country, for their emancipation.

*This article was first published on Christopher Malikane's blog*

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media