PETER XABENDLINI | Views on potential ANC, DA pact are fearmongering

Most vocal disciples against partnership argue DA represents anti-working class stance

A file image of President Cyril Ramaphosa and DA leader John Steenhuisen in Parliament.
A file image of President Cyril Ramaphosa and DA leader John Steenhuisen in Parliament.
Image: Esa Alexander

Many views about an ANC and DA partnership, after the elections, are just about fearmongering instead of proposing alternatives that address the basic needs of South Africans operating in a modern and complex domestic and international economy.

SA is at a fork in the road, due to the outcomes of the elections, which have ushered in the age of coalitions at a national level.

This is our new reality and will remain so for a long time. I have found the strong arguments, of many pundits and political commentators, against an ANC/DA coalition both shortsighted and devoid of historical accuracy on how the ANC has evolved. Many arguments against this coalition are very selective in glorifying the past to conjure up a picture that we are facing Armageddon. 

The ANC is a political powerhouse and has mastered the art of flexibility, keeping the bigger picture in mind and being the leader of society.

Have we already forgotten that in the '50s there was a fight for the soul of the ANC? This was between the Africanists/nationalists and the reformists over the issue of multiracialism during the drafting of the Freedom Charter; the reformists won the day. and Robert Sobukwe and Co left and the ANC marched on.

A fight broke out later at the ANC consultative conference in Morogoro in 1969 in Tanzania while the ANC was banned and many of its leaders either jailed or exiled, the main issues being about the influence of the SACP and the opening of membership to all races, which led to the expulsion of the Gang of 8 in 1975.

We are aware of the tussle between the proponents of negotiations and the backers of continuing with the armed struggle. The ANC-led alliance was again at a crossroads and chose to negotiate with the apartheid government.

The ANC after the 1994 general elections formed a government of national unity, which included members of various political parties including the National Party and IFP. It later absorbed members of the New National Party in its ranks, including giving them cabinet seats, etc. The ANC adopted market-friendly policies and laws against fierce opposition from within to stay true to its ideological roots.

Justice Dikgang Moseneke recounts in his memoir, My Own Liberator, a chat with the late President Nelson Mandela, in which he asks why the PAC got so few votes. Mandela responded, “the PAC was a pine tree, that stands tall and firm against howling winds until the wind fells it. The ANC is a willow tree, that bends in the face of headwinds and sometimes hangs down to find water. To mean that tactics are sometimes more important than principle.”

The ANC has faced many headwinds over the years and has found ways to be flexible and could bend under storms and bounce back. This contributed to the ANC becoming the leader of society and defining the political landscape for the past 30 years while the PAC became a footnote.

There are two polarising views on the debate on coalitions and who must govern for the next five years. The most vocal disciples against this coalition between the ANC and DA argue eagerly that the DA represents the interests of white monopoly capital, Western imperialism, and capitalism and is anti-working class.

Others against a coalition between the ANC, EFF and MKP see such a marriage to represent a future of anti-growth, corruption at an industrial scale, patronage, cadre deployment, implementation of failed communist ideology policies, kleptocrats, etc.

The ANC has never had a straightjacket approach to such matters, always being fluid and flexible and still principled in pursuit of the long-term agenda. It is a party that has always understood the fundamentals of the required quid pro quo during such difficult times and allowed itself to find solutions to save the day; the rest is history.

With the threat of violence and some willing to subvert the democratic project, the ANC has charted these waters before. During the Codesa negotiations, when right-wing parties and the IFP held the country hostage and at a knife edge, the ANC came up with workable compromises, including the sunset clause and showed forward saying.

The electorate has spoken and none of the parties has received a majority to govern.

The ANC, in proposing to form a government of national unity, can be seen in some quarters as a stroke of genius.

The ANC has always projected itself as a broad church accommodating various opposing ideas and opinions. Its history is littered with examples of how it needed to change with the times and be flexible; this is such a time and it looks like its current leaders have tapped into that rich history.


  • Xabendlini is a master of laws in corporate law (LLM) student at the University of SA (Unisa)

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