South Africa’s political landscape has taken on the flair of a grand performance, with new parties constantly joining the chorus of the Government of National Unity (GNU). 

As of now, we’ve got a whopping ten parties in this coalition. The latest to sign up are Rise Mzansi and Al Jama-ah. 

They join the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Patriotic Alliance (PA), Good, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

This coalition, forged in the aftermath of the ANC’s diminished electoral performance of just over 40%, aims to bring together different political groups under one unified government with the intention (and hope) of establishing a stable and accountable administration.

With a formidable parliamentary majority of over 70%, the newly formed GNU brings together a diverse array of political parties. Many of these parties, like the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and newbies Rise Mzansi, view this coalition as a prime opportunity to influence policy rather than just securing cabinet positions.

“Positions are not a condition and if offered such, our structures will consider if those positions will serve our policy ideals and electorate,” FF+ party head Wouter Wessels told Daily Maverick. 

However, this coalition isn’t just about numbers—it’s also about juggling egos and portfolios like a high-stakes game of musical chairs. 

Behind the scenes, negotiations for cabinet positions have hit a snag. The DA, eyeing significant economic portfolios, is at odds with the ANC over the allocation of ministerial posts. The inclusion of additional parties could potentially reduce the DA’s leverage as it seeks to increase its share of posts.

“The Cabinet positions the DA should rightly [receive] include the deputy president as is standard practice in similar arrangements around the world. We can only agree to give up that post if it is replaced with both a Minister in the Presidency, who is designated Leader of Government Business… as well as the deputy minister of finance to participate fully in the development of the budget,” stated DA federal executive chairperson Helen Zille. This information is from a letter to ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, as seen by News24.

President Ramaphosa, tasked with the delicate balancing act, has yet to unveil his cabinet amid mounting pressure and speculation. “The success of the GNU will be measured by the extent to which we are prepared to focus not on who will govern, but on how we will govern, together,” said Ramaphosa

“A lot of the political parties, especially the ANC and DA are finding themselves in a new reality and that is taking time to come to terms with,” says Political analyst Wayne Sussman, about the length of the negotiations process. 

On the opposition front, tensions persist, particularly with former President Jacob Zuma’s MK party adamantly refusing to engage with the coalition. Citing what it claims are electoral irregularities, MK stands firm in its rejection of the GNU regardless of the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of the case. Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have also been vocal against joining the “white supremacist political parties” within the GNU. Instead, the EFF has positioned themselves as watchdogs over the new government’s decisions and policies.

As the nation awaits President Ramaphosa’s cabinet announcement, the stakes are high. Will this coalition manage to deliver on its promises of unity and progress, or will internal rifts and competing interests undermine its effectiveness?