In what seems like a political version of “will they, won’t they?” Gauteng’s eagerly awaited provincial cabinet announcement has been postponed yet again as the African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) continue to fight over who gets what in the provincial government cookie jar.

The announcement of Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s cabinet was deferred for the second time on Monday night following instructions from Luthuli House. He was re-elected unopposed as premier of Gauteng on 14 June. 

The ANC and DA, unable to find common ground, are at odds over portfolio allocations in the government of provincial unity (GPU), formed after the May 29 elections where the ANC secured 28 seats and the DA 22 out of the 80-seat legislature.

​​The deadlock coincides with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent cabinet announcement on Sunday, in which the DA secured six ministerial positions and six deputy minister posts. Additionally, their MP, Annelie Lotriet, was recently elected deputy speaker of parliament.

The bone of contention? Portfolio allocations. The DA, with its 27% voter support, is pushing for a fair share of the MEC pie, suggesting they should snag four out of the 10 portfolios, including key sectors like infrastructure and education. Meanwhile, the ANC seems set on keeping the lion’s share, offering only three seats to their blue counterparts.

“We met with the ANC a number of times, including today [Monday]. They wanted to offer the DA one MEC position, a party that brings 27% of votes. They then moved from one MEC position to two. We said we can’t work like that, we won’t accept that,” said Solly Msimanga, provincial leader of the DA.

Hellen Zille, ever the vocal DA figurehead, expressed frustration over the ANC’s bargaining tactics, lamenting the lack of transparency in negotiations. “We, as the DA, are prepared to enter the government of provincial unity in Gauteng. This on the basis of a power-sharing partnership to reflect the will of the voters in Gauteng. But we are not prepared to be co-opted by the ANC in their terms alone. [They are] acting as if the ANC still has an overall majority in Gauteng,” said Zille.

Zille clarified that during a meeting on Tuesday, 2 July, it emerged that the ANC intended to retain seven of the 10 available cabinet seats for themselves. “We cannot be taken hostage in a government of provincial unity in which only one party dictates the terms,” she said.

“Till now, the ANC has been prepared to offer the DA a maximum of three out of 10 cabinet seats, without telling us how many seats they intend to take for themselves and how many they propose to offer to other parties. This approach was not conducive to building an atmosphere of trust,” said Zille. 

Meanwhile, ANC Gauteng secretary Thembinkosi Nciza fired back, saying they won’t be “bullied by the DA,” and that this isn’t some grand coalition tea party adding that the ANC “don’t believe what they [DA] are raising is reasonable”. 

In a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Lesufi provided context on the deadlock between the ANC and DA. Lesufi stated that the DA provided a document outlining their demands where “seven MECs will be allocated to the ANC and other parties, and three will be allocated to the DA.” 

“This is the document that led to the election of the premier speaker and the deputy speaker,” said Lesufi. However, the DA withdrew the document a day later, demanding further negotiations. This subsequently led to the deadlock. 

Msimanga was quick to lash out at the ANC leaders for “contradicting themselves,” adding that what they were saying was “complete rubbish.” 

On Monday, Nciza told media outlets that “From tomorrow [Tuesday] this really must proceed because it is really delaying the people of Gauteng. It can’t be fair, it’s not right. The people of Gauteng have been waiting for their government.”  

Political analyst Sanusha Naidu weighed in, suggesting that this spat could set the tone for future governance in Gauteng. “There is going to be a constant nipping at the heels… I think it is going to be ugly at times,” she told Daily Maverick

Meanwhile, smaller parties have been left waiting in the wings. The legislature consists of 80 seats, of which the  ANC has 28, followed by the DA with 22, the EFF with 11, the MK party with eight, ActionSA with three, the Freedom Front Plus and the PA with two each, and the IFP, Rise Mzansi, Bosa and the ACDP with one seat each.

PA deputy president Kenny Kunene said had no updates on the talks between the ANC and DA. “There has not been any official [word] and we are truly concerned about the impact this will have on service delivery, particularly in the City of Johannesburg,” he said.   

In a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula announced that Premier Lesufi is set to announce his cabinet later today, 3 July. 

For now, all eyes remain on Gauteng’s political stage, where the next act of this unfolding drama could bring either resolution or even more twists and turns.