Despite widespread elation and renewed Ramaphoria, cracks are already showing in the GNU. Optimism ought to be tempered with caution.

“Investors cheer as Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as South Africa’s president,” blared the Financial Times.

“Rand breaks below R18/$, JSE soars above 81,000 points,” announced Business Day, adding, “The tie-up between the five parties in the GNU could bring large offshore inflows into SA assets in the near term.”

“Rand surges as Ramaphosa takes the presidential oath,” wrote The Witness.

“Time for Ramaphosa to show true statesmanship,” opined the Daily Dispatch, only slightly more soberly.

“South Africa’s Ramaphosa vows ‘new era’ at inauguration”, reported the BBC, as if Ramaphosa vowing a new era was something they’d never heard before.

In an effusive Tiktok video that sounds like it was aimed at young children, journalist Qaanitah Hunter led with breathless excitement about “The Kiss” that Ramaphosa gave his wife at the inauguration, and said: “Ramaphosa has set an optimistic tone for the future. He has promised to lead a capable and honest government. Do you think that is possible?”

Over at Daily Maverick, journalist Rebecca Davis clearly thinks so.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Ramaphosa the right president for the GNU job,” she writes in an “inauguration analysis”.

“It was the right address from the right president,” she declared. “Indeed, listening to Cyril Ramaphosa deliver his inauguration speech at the Union Buildings on Wednesday, it was impossible to imagine a South African president, bar Nelson Mandela, better suited for this particular political moment.”


Granted, the news that the ANC has chosen to partner in a Government of National Unity with the DA and other parties, not including the EFF and MK, seems like good news.

Granted, Ramaphosa’s inauguration speech was very nice as usual, albeit rather anodyne. It preached unity and cooperation, and warned off anti-constitutionalists that sought to undermine democracy, but it was very light on actual policy detail or specific commitments.

Still, this outpouring of optimism, relief, bullishness and even adulation reminded me of the euphoria that permeated the country and the markets after his initial election as president, back in 2018.

Back then, I warned that a smart and charismatic socialist was nevertheless dangerous.

I wrote: “[We] don’t need a better ANC. We don’t need more socialism, just done better. We need less of it. We need a rational economic policy that does not lead a president to promise us pie in the sky and blatant contradictions.”

I concluded: “Cyril Ramaphosa will not be South Africa’s saviour. He will lead it further into the mire of socialism.”

What with expropriation sans compensation, the NHI, employment equity quotas, prescribed assets, localisation, master plans, the glaring failure to prosecute or even dismiss corrupt cadres fingered in the Zondo report, crumbling infrastructure, and the decline of South Africa’s GDP per capita by 3% since 2018, I’m afraid that prediction was on the money.

Ramaphoria was not merited then, and almost all Ramaphorians have declared themselves to have been disillusioned. Ramaphoria is not merited now, either.


It is important to note that the ANC’s drubbing in the national and provincial elections did not come at the hands of anti-socialist parties. It was inflicted predominantly by Jacob Zuma’s MK Party, which can be considered a split from the ANC.

For all its purported contrition, the ANC has no reason to consider the election results as an ideological rebuke. It will not feel it needs to sacrifice its major policy positions, such as expanding the state, transformation, state-led growth through state-owned enterprises and industrial master plans, public sector employment, increasing the “social wage”, single-payer health care, compulsory surrender of assets in the supposed national interest, preferential procurement, establishing a state bank and a sovereign wealth fund, and all the other elements of its gradual pursuit of socialism as the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) dictates.

It can, instead, consider its defeat an indication that it has failed merely in delivery, or in the speed with which it has implemented its policies. There were missteps, but not fundamental errors of ideology, it could argue.

Its supposed willingness to work with other political parties should not be taken as a willingness to implement the election manifestos of those partners. The ANC remains fully committed to its own manifesto.

It also still sees itself, in Marxist terms, not only as a vanguard party and the natural leader of the people, but also as the leading partner in the government of national unity (GNU). All other parties, including the DA, are there exclusively at the invitation of the ANC, according to ANC chief whip Mdumiseni Ntuli.


There are already signs of strain within the nascent GNU.

Ntuli was speaking in response to a claim by the DA that it ought to have been consulted before the Patriotic Alliance was permitted to join the GNU, as per clause 24 of the Statement of Intent (SoI) signed by Fikile Mbalula, secretary-general of the ANC, and Helen Zille, chairperson of the Federal Council of the DA.

That clause reads: “In keeping with the spirit of an inclusive GNU it is agreed that the composition shall be discussed and agreed amongst the existing parties, whenever new parties desire to be part of the GNU.”

Helen Zille is on record as saying that the DA is, along with the ANC and IFP, a founding member of the GNU.

Ntuli, however, claims not only that the ANC is the sole principal lead in the GNU, but also that provisions such as clause 24 only take effect once the government has actually been formed.

From a legal point of view, he may well be correct, since a statement of intent does not in fact establish a GNU that other parties could join.

Cabinet inclusion

According to a troubling article by Natasha Marrian and Pieter Du Toit on News24, this kind of interpretational disagreement may extend to the formation of the executive.

“ANC sources said the party understood that the statement of intent to form a GNU related to how the agreement would impact the government in Parliament,” they write. “It did not include how Cabinet would be constituted − which remained the president’s prerogative.”

The relevant part of the SoI is the last sentence of clause 16, and clause 17 (blame the hurried drafting for this messiness):

“The President shall in constituting the Executive, take into account the electoral outcomes. … 17. Whilst recognizing the President’s prerogative to appoint Members of the Executive, such appointments should be done in consultation with the Leaders of the respective Parties of the Members considered for appointment.”

To “take into account electoral outcomes” is pretty vague. The intent on the part of the DA is clearly to have proportional representation in Cabinet, but the SoI doesn’t explicitly say so. It doesn’t appear to bind the President at all, in fact. Merely consulting other parties also doesn’t enforce a particular course of action.

The ANC might well feel it is perfectly within its rights to fob the DA off with a few ministries selected from women, youth and people with disabilities; water and sanitation; correctional services; sports, arts and culture; tourism; small business development; rural development; and maybe environment, forestry and fisheries or communications and digital technologies.

That would leave the ANC in charge of the key portfolios, like finance; health; education (both basic and higher); home affairs; international relations and cooperation; mineral resources and energy; public service and administration; police; justice; trade and industry; social development; transport; and land reform.

The ANC could even give the DA no ministries at all. It doesn’t have a great record of actually changing its position in response to consultation, after all, and prerogative is, legally speaking, prerogative.


Should this transpire, and the DA fails to get at least a couple of meaty ministries, the GNU would be stillborn. The DA would be honour-bound to withdraw and collapse the government, which would leave the ANC free to cobble together a governing coalition that includes parties that wouldn’t join a GNU with the DA, such as the EFF.

Given that the ANC will be loath to surrender much of its agenda, and won’t want to betray the NDR, this may well be a deliberate strategy – if not on the part of Ramaphosa, then on the part of the factions within the ANC that were reflexively opposed to partnering with the DA in the first place.

After all, if the ANC offers the DA some low-ranking ministries, or none at all, and the DA then rejects the offer and leaves the GNU, the ANC could claim that it made an honest attempt to partner with the liberal centre, but that the DA’s arrogant “baasskap” mentality, of which the ANC always warned, made that impossible.

This would leave the way open for continuing the gradual transition to regressive socialism – the NDR – that the ANC has always pursued. Not to mention continuing the looting.

“New era”

There are a few ways in which this GNU could work. There are far more ways in which it might not, however.

One would have liked to think that it could last a few years, but if they’re already bickering about the interpretation of the SoI, even before the GNU is formally constituted, there is a distinct possibility that the whole thing will come crashing down before the month is out.

If there’s anything that 30 years of ANC rule has taught us it is that it’s unwise to trust ANC leaders when they promise a “new era”.

[Image: President Cyril Ramaphosa at his inauguration on 18 June 2024. Still from live stream by the public broadcaster, the SABC]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets.