Government of National Unity (GNU): Between a rock and a hard place

On Sunday, South Africans received the news that the Government of National Unity (GNU) was constituted.

For over a month, South Africa hinged on either a Government of National Unity, in this format, or one in which the ANC entered into a governing relationship with the EFF, in a typical ‘doomsday’ scenario. This is exactly the scenario that the DA faced when confronted with the decision to either enter into or reject this relationship with the ANC. Only time will tell whether their decision was correct or not.

From this perspective, it was a forced marriage with all the dangers and complexities inherent to such a relationship. In our view, the following are but a few of the obstacles: 

  • The DA will not be able to change the ANC's socialist socio-economic ideology; the President made sure of this by appointing DA ministers only to carefully selected, less consequential portfolios. The appointment of DA deputy ministers to ‘burning issue’ portfolios is nothing other than a ‘consolation prize’. The ANC's race-based transformation agenda in all areas of socio-economic life will continue unabated.  
  • In certain departments where DA ministers have been appointed, there may be governance- and administrative improvements. This, however, will be a continuous source of massive frustration, as these DA ministers do not have the privilege of appointing their own deputies or heads of departments, i.e., director generals. 

In entering into the deal presented by the President, the DA accepted that they will be bullied by the ANC. This in itself does not warrant criticism towards the DA, it merely emphasises the difficult scenario they faced - that is, keeping South Africa out of the clutches of the ‘doomsday’ scenario which an ANC-EFF coalition presents South Africa with.  

Only time will tell if, and for how long the parties to the GNU will respect the spirit of the GNU arrangement and each other. If and when it can no longer be maintained, when the cost of cooperation becomes too high, the aforementioned delayed ‘doomsday’ scenario will be triggered.

However, the GNU arrangement, in its current form, is what we have to work with. Although we are sceptical of the GNU's prospect of success, it is unjustified to outrightly dismiss any possibility of it succeeding.

We can only hope that the eventual result will be positive and in the best interest of all South Africans. We will certainly make our contribution to its possible success. Our effort encompasses the continuation of our advocacy in the interest of South Africa's small and medium-sized enterprises; a fight we will not surrender at any cost.

This will always remain our endeavour; unless the business sector succeeds, neither South Africa nor any form of government will ever succeed.

By Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA).