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Issued by Ismail Joosub on behalf of the FW de Klerk Foundation on 14/06/2024


See the Comparative Table here.



The outcome of South Africa’s recent elections necessitates coalition-building to achieve a parliamentary majority capable of electing a president and passing legislation effectively. (See this article for more). The ANC has accepted this, with President Ramaphosa announcing that the ANC National Executive Committee (“NEC”) decided to pursue a Government of National Unity (“GNU”). (I.e. a broad coalition consisting of all (major) parties who won a seat in Parliament.) Historical precedent exists from South Africa’s initial post-apartheid years under Nelson Mandela’s presidency. President Ramaphosa views this as the optimal path forward for South Africa’s next five-year term, emphasising the need for inclusive governance to address pressing national challenges.


GNU Talks:

The ANC has laid out specific conditions for political parties interested in joining its GNU. In a meeting held by the ANC’s NEC, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the need for “extraordinary leadership” to address pressing national issues, such as job creation, the high cost of living, service delivery, crime and corruption. Ramaphosa stated that parties must commit to shared values including respect for the Constitution, social justice, equity, human dignity, the rule of law and non-sexism. Additionally, parties must uphold stability, integrity, accountability and transparency, with written and public agreements to ensure coherence in the GNU.

Despite these conditions, internal factionalism within the ANC poses challenges to coalition talks, especially regarding potential alliances with the DA. Some members of the party have urged the ANC to form alliances with parties sharing a common history and struggle, such as the MK Party, the IFP and the EFF. 

However, the ANC has engaged in talks with various political parties. Below are the policy positions of the five parties that, as of the date of writing, have stated their intention to form part of the GNU.


– Democratic Alliance (“DA”):

The DA has set out core principles for participating in a GNU or any power-sharing agreement, emphasising constitutionalism and institutional independence. These principles include:

  1. It insists on the protection and promotion of the Constitution as the supreme law. This includes upholding its Preamble and Bill of Rights. (The DA’s stance directly counters proposals from parties, like the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (“MKP”), which advocates for scrapping the Constitution and reintroducing a system of parliamentary sovereignty reminiscent of apartheid-era governance.)
  2. It is adamant about maintaining the South African Reserve Bank’s (“SARB”) independence and adhering to sound monetary policies to protect the integrity and stability of South Africa’s financial system. (This is crucial as the EFF, MK, and certain ANC factions advocate for the nationalisation of SARB, despite its current structure involving private shareholders with no control over monetary policy.)
  3. It seeks devolved powers for metropolitan policing and metropolitan passenger rail. These demands align with the DA’s long-standing advocacy for local governance autonomy.
  4. The party also fully supports Operation Vulindlela (which is the presidential reform initiative targeting critical sectors such as energy, logistics, water supply and skills development). The DA insists that the following key Vulindlela reforms must continue:
    • Unbundling of Eskom to enhance energy sector efficiency.
    • Granting port concessions to improve logistics.
    • Establishing an effective water regulator, addressing water shedding issues.
    • Implementing a skilled visa program to attract talent.
    • Expanding home ownership through the issuance of title deeds.
    • Reforming mineral rights with an effective cadastral system.
    • Rapidly expanding digital spectrum availability to foster economic growth.
  5. The DA emphasises the need for Parliament to robustly oversee the Executive, multi-party access to the budgeting process and the establishment of deadlock-breaking mechanisms. These measures aim to prevent the administrative paralysis observed in local governments of national unity, like those in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, which have struggled with instability and service delivery issues.


The DA’s approach reflects a pragmatic willingness to negotiate, as evidenced by their temporary shelving of contentious manifesto points, such as abolishing Black Economic Empowerment (“BEE”) and amending minimum wage laws. This pragmatism, coupled with their constitutionally anchored principles, positions the DA as a critical player in forming a stable and effective GNU, while also highlighting areas of potential common ground with the ANC.


The IFP has agreed to join the ANC and the DA in a GNU. By rejecting the MK Party’s overtures for a coalition in KZN, the IFP aims to contribute to a unified national effort. The party says that participating in the government of national unity aligns with the electorate’s mandate for collaborative governance, ensuring stability and progress for the country.

Unlike other parties, the IFP has not specified stringent conditions for entering the coalition. IFP President Velenkosi Hlabisa emphasised that the IFP’s primary goal is to ensure a stable government that addresses the challenges facing South Africa. He assured the public and party members that the IFP would maintain its identity within the GNU, drawing on its experience from similar arrangements between 1994 and 2004.

The IFP’s political ideology aligns with the DA, focusing on traditional values, respect for constitutional democracy and strong local governance. This conservative alignment is evident in their shared emphasis on the rule of law, economic stability and public service efficiency. 

– Rise Mzansi

Rise Mzansi has positioned itself as a pivotal player in coalition negotiations following South Africa’s recent elections, saying that it “wants to be part of a credible government”. Open to discussions with all parties, the party prioritises forming a stable government to avoid legislative paralysis. 

Key principles guiding Rise Mzansi include upholding the Constitution, safeguarding the independence of critical institutions and ensuring uninterrupted public services. 

They have appointed a delegation to engage in these talks, emphasising cooperation and mutual respect among political entities. Rise Mzansi’s stance aligns with other parties like the ANC and DA on constitutional governance and service delivery, but differs from the EFF and MK Party, which reject the idea of a government of national unity. 

– Patriotic Alliance (“PA”)

The PA enters coalition negotiations with the singular demand: The party’s Deputy President, Kenny Kunene, must become the Minister of Home Affairs. This aligns with their focus on restoring “law and order” through stricter border controls. 

This stance contrasts sharply with other parties like the EFF and ANC, which advocate for broader socio-economic reforms and nationalisation respectively. 


Grey Areas Remain:

As coalition negotiations unfold in South Africa detailed consensus on healthcare, education, housing and economic reform appears to be lacking. These significant policies must be agreed upon to form a cohesive GNU. These unresolved policy differences pose challenges in crafting a unified agenda that addresses South Africa’s socio-economic challenges comprehensively under a GNU framework.


Not Apart of the GNU:

The two major parties that have opted out of joining the GNU at present are:


The EFF have outlined specific demands and preconditions for participating in any coalition government, rejecting the ANC’s proposed GNU. Its position hinges on a coalition that includes black political parties, explicitly excluding the DA and Freedom Front Plus (“FF+”). 

One of the EFF’s primary demands is control over the Finance Ministry. This would give them oversight of South Africa’s economic policies and Treasury. Despite this, it is unlikely that the ANC will cede this ministry given its critical importance and control over the nation’s fiscal policies.The party also wants the position of Speaker, giving it control over Parliament. 

The EFF’s broader policy framework is encapsulated in its “Seven Non-Negotiable Cardinal Pillars,” which have been central to the party’s platform since its inception. 

These pillars include:

  1. Expropriation of Land Without Compensation: The EFF demands the redistribution of land to address historical inequalities, advocating for state ownership and equal redistribution.
  2. Nationalisation of Mines, Banks and Other Strategic Sectors: The EFF calls for the nationalisation of key economic sectors without compensation, aiming to place these assets under state control to benefit the majority of citizens.
  3. Building State and Government Capacity: The party seeks to eliminate tender systems and enhance state capacity to manage projects and services directly, reducing corruption and increasing efficiency.
  4. Free Quality Education, Healthcare, Housing and Sanitation: The EFF promotes comprehensive social services as fundamental rights, ensuring access to quality education, healthcare, housing and sanitation for all citizens.
  5. Massive Protected Industrial Development: This pillar focuses on creating sustainable jobs through industrialisation and introducing minimum wage policies to reduce income disparities.
  6. Development of the African Economy: The EFF supports continental economic development and advocates for a shift from reconciliation to justice across Africa, promoting economic justice and unity.
  7. Corrupt-Free Government and Society: The EFF aims for an open and accountable government, free from corruption and victimisation by state agencies, fostering a transparent and ethical governance environment.


These cardinal pillars underline the EFF’s radical economic and social reform agenda, which contrasts sharply with the policies of other parties, like the ANC and DA. 

– MK Party 

The MK Party has set forth stringent conditions for joining coalition government discussions. A national spokesperson for the MK Party has stated unequivocally that the party will not engage with the ANC as long as President Cyril Ramaphosa remains its leader. This firm stance reflects the party’s dissatisfaction with the current ANC leadership.

Furthermore, the MK Party’s coalition-building approach emphasises alignment with their “People’s Mandate,” which outlines their key priorities. Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, a prominent figure within the MK Party and close confidant of her father, Jacob Zuma, articulated the party’s conditions, stating, “We have the People’s Mandate [the party’s manifesto] and as long as you are aligned and close enough with what we want to do, then you are someone we can talk to in terms of the land, free education and nationalism.”

The MK Party’s manifesto focuses on significant socio-economic reforms, including land redistribution, free education and promoting nationalism. These core issues are non-negotiable for the MK Party and any potential coalition partner must share these priorities.

In a strategic move, the MK Party has extended an invitation to the Inkatha Freedom Party (“IFP”) for coalition talks in KwaZulu-Natal (“KZN”): The MK Party’s Secretary-General, Sihle Ngubane, outlined shared political ideologies and objectives in a letter to the IFP leadership. Ngubane highlighted the importance of restoring dignity to the Zulu Kingdom, kings and traditional leaders, enhancing service delivery in KZN and positioning the province as South Africa’s major economic hub. These common goals form the basis for potential cooperation between the MK Party and the IFP. However, the IFP has rejected the offer.


The Need for Formalised Coalition Agreements:

Currently, no law governs coalition agreements. Without formalised agreements that set out policy stances and power-sharing dynamics, the risk of governance paralysis and corruption remains high. It is thus heartening that President Ramaphosa, when announcing the GNU, said that the agreement should be in writing, include measures to hold all participants accountable and be made public.

In the long run, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ draft Local Government: Municipal Structures Amendment Bill is the start of a possible solution: It provides for binding coalition agreements at the municipal level. This Bill is currently open for public comment by the Department until 5 July 2024. Once finalised, it is set to be tabled in Parliament. It can then be used as a reference point for drafting laws to govern provincial and national government coalitions. 

However, as South Africa’s Parliament must sit tomorrow, it is urgent that, even without a governing law, the GNU coalition agreement be written down. This is to prevent parties from (in the future) acting contrary to the agreed-upon policy be positions stated in the agreement or leaving the GNU before the expiration of the five-year term (resulting in government instability). Such an agreement would also hold coalition parties accountable, giving voters a transparent understanding of what to expect from their government. This transparency is essential for democratic integrity, ensuring that political entities prioritise national stability and effective governance over short-term political gains. 



Irrespective of the coalition, the Constitution is sacrosanct. Any party aspiring to govern must unequivocally recognise and uphold constitutional democracy. Upholding the Constitution is non-negotiable, as it is the cornerstone of a just and effective government. South Africa’s future hinges on a collective commitment to these democratic principles.

Without formalised coalition agreements, the risks of governance paralysis and corruption are exacerbated. Transparent, legally binding coalition frameworks are essential to ensure stability and accountability. Political entities must prioritise the nation’s long-term stability and democratic integrity over short-term political gains.