'We are going to have to work together across party lines': Steenhuisen on 'working with the ANC'

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party had already extended a hand of friendship in parliament to President Cyril Ramaphosa concerning his reform agenda, and they needed to find a way to get certain bills passed.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party had already extended a hand of friendship in parliament to President Cyril Ramaphosa concerning his reform agenda, and they needed to find a way to get certain bills passed.
Image: Esa Alexander

DA leader John Steenhuisen says working with the ANC does not mean the two parties would be in a formal coalition.

“It could mean a working arrangement around how we get majorities in places like parliament,” he said on Wednesday.

Steenhuisen, however, says his party's primary focus was to get the ANC below 50% where it governed and not to enter into a coalition agreement with it.

“We've got to get them out of power, to lose power so that the glue of patronage doesn't hold them together any more and it will give the reformers space to be able to strike out in the new direction.”

Steenhuisen said there has to come a time when the reformers in the ANC and the rational centre (DA) come together to act in the best interest of the country.

He was speaking in a DA special broadcast on social media after a Sunday Times report at the weekend, which said Steenhuisen had opened the door to a possible coalition with the ANC should there be a stalemate in the 2024 elections.

This would only occur if President Cyril Ramaphosa was still the ANC's leader, reported the paper.

TimesLIVE understands that Steenhuisen is under pressure from party members about his comments to the paper.

Asked on Wednesday by the broadcast presenter Siviwe Gwarube, also an MP, if the DA would ever go into a coalition with the ANC, Steenhuisen said: “No, not in the current form of the ANC.”

He denied ever saying the party would enter into a coalition with the ANC “as it stands today”.

“I was asked whether we would work with them and I said, 'yes, we would work with them'.

“But working doesn't necessarily mean a coalition,” he said.

Listen to a clip of the interview below:

Steenhuisen said they had already extended a hand of friendship in parliament, to Ramaphosa around his reform agenda, including tabling a number of bills that give life to the agenda, and “we've got to find a working majority to get them passed”, he said.

“We are going to have to work together across party lines if we are to succeed in getting rid of Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the public protector.

“If we all just sit in our little voting blocs and we don't find common ground on this, she is going to continue being a public protector and there will be long-term damage to both that office and SA,” said Steenhuisen.

These, he said, were opportunities for parties in the house who share the same values and principles to work together and individuals within those parties to find each other.

Steenhuisen was adamant that his party wouldn't collapse into the ANC.

“What I did say very clearly though is that the time is coming, because our country is in a very difficult place. You've seen the unemployment figures, the economy is not growing, services are crumbling, the municipalities are falling apart.

“There has to come a time when the reformers and the rational centre come together to act in the best interest of SA.”

The alternative is what should terrify every South African, he said, because if the “new majority is on the radical left”, SA would find itself on a warp speed towards a Zimbabwe, “where you have a failed state, populist policies that destroyed people's lives and destroyed the country”.

“We've got to stop that and the only way we can stop that is by building a rational centre in South African politics that protects people based on shared values and principles.

“You want to drive the reform agenda to get SA off this terrible low growth, high debt, high unemployment trajectory, and onto a new trajectory of prosperity and hope for South Africans. That can only come by breaking the current logjam in SA politics and building that new majority.

“I want the DA to be the core of that new realignment in SA,” he said.

Helen Zille, the chairperson of the DA Federal Council, spoke about the history of the realignment of SA politics project, which she championed back in 2008.

“It was in the run-up to the 2009 elections and I started talking then about how we have to realign politics,” she said.

“What it means is that the ANC has got to crumble and the best way to get that to happen is to push the ANC below 50% in local governments first.

“If you push the ANC under 50%, the glue of patronage, the contracts, the tenders and everything melts and then suddenly they have to choose between alternative positions on principles and values and values where you can get that clear choice happening.”

TimesLIVE


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