The GNU must embark on a drive to heal SA: Solly Moeng 

Cyril Ramaphosa has formed a multiparty cabinet for South Africa’s post-2024 government, marking a pivotal shift from ANC dominance. Amid institutional decay and calls for reform, the new administration faces the challenge of healing racial divides and restoring integrity to public service. Political unity and constitutional values are crucial for navigating this transformative period.

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By Solly Moeng*

Now that the embattled South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has finally announced a multiparty cabinet to lead the work of the post-2024 government of national unity (GNU) in South Africa, let us turn our attention to the number of crucial considerations that must remain at the heart of what must happen over the next 5 years of the new government’s tenure. 

It will be the second such government since the end of apartheid but the first time that its necessity was brought about by the African National Congress (ANC)’s loss of 30 years of absolute and comfortable electoral support. It dropped to just over 40% in 2024 from 57% that it commanded following the 2019 general elections.  It had already dropped from the 62.15% it had won in 2014.

Read more: Cabinet GNU: The strengths, the weaknesses — Ray Hartley

The Institutions

Following many years of wanton toxic arrogance, high levels of impunity, the deployment of incompetent individuals into crucial state institutions, state capture and other forms of corruption, the combination of which have left many of South Affrica’s institutions of democracy weakened, repurposed, and abused for narrow political benefit, South Africans have at last voted for change. If the country is to heal from more than 20 years of abuse and to stand-up proud again, 2024 must be the beginning of a progressive, decisive, post-ANC era.

Making sense of the change that South Africans have voted for must not remain at the politically or analytically convenient superficial level and be confined to electorally transferring power from one group of politicians to another while everything else remains the same. It must go a lot deeper. There must be a decisive assessment of the strength of the country’s vital institutions to withstand further attempts by rogue politicians to do to them what others succeeded in the past. Existing checks and balances must be reviewed and strengthened and, where they do not exist, they must be devised and put in place. 

The plight and well-being of South Africa must no longer be left alone to depend on the goodwill or good health of the unpredictable and, no doubt, fallible men and women in politics.       

Read more: 🔒 Who’s who in South Africa’s new, diverse Cabinet

Attitudes must change

There is sound reasoning in the calls for the detoxification of the country’s institutions by replacing politically deployed senior officials, starting with departmental directors-general (DGs), with professionals who must lead the needed process to professionalise and deracialise the South African civil service.  If the attitudes of those who are already in place cannot be reformed, individuals must be changed. It should no longer be that in a country with a nation as diverse as South Africa’s population, those employed to serve in public institutions remain at the beck and call of political masters whose agendas are to continue driving wedges aimed at entrenching racial divisions for narrow political aims. 

It should be clear after 30 years of failed attempts that no level of vengeful reverse racism will make up for or heal the damages done by colonialism and apartheid. It can only reverse the pain and, over time, create new victims of racism on the other side of the isle – with all the bitterness that comes with it – and so feed the vicious beast of man’s inhumanity over the other. Those who wield political power today must realise that it will only be a matter of time before they too lose it, and the tables get turned. They have an opportunity to avoid repeating the errors of the past and to create shared space for all, irrespective race, religion, culture, ethnicity, or gender identity. Healing the pains of the past must happen, but not through the collective punishment of a whole people on the basis only of how they look and by an indiscriminate application of punitive race/group policies.    

There must also be a (re)turn to the appreciation of academic qualifications, professional and sound ‘on-the job’ experience, as well as ethical grounding in the appointment and retention of people to serve the public at all levels of government service. Given its history of state-driven racial divisions, leaders of post-apartheid and post-ANC South Africa have an added responsibility to do all they can to hold our diverse nation together, no matter how hard that might seem at times and on the surface. Using the racial cracks for narrow political ends should be regarded as treasonous.     

Read more: Why do liberation movements fail when they come to power?: SA, Namibia are cases in point

The radical, anti-constitutional left must remain isolated

It is a good thing, albeit sad, that political parties that continue to call for the total undoing of South Africa’s Constitution and the rule of Common Law (indigenised over decades to suit South Africa’s realities) from the radical left have not succeeded in their divisive mission. Their incomprehensible calls for a return to an imagined, made-up, idyllic pre-colonial Africa that was led by unelected Chiefs and kings is illogical. However, the threat they pose to South Africa’s potential to build lasting socio-political unity remains real and must not be underestimated. 

In truth, it is known that several key radical political left personalities calling for the abolition of the Constitution and Common Law have personal reasons to fear the long arm of the law, as they know that they could soon be called to account for their past deeds.

To avoid the myriads of past abuses, the government of national unity must lessen the criminal pressure on institutions and build for a South Africa where no political formation gets to dictate terms on its own. The future of South Africa lies in an entrenched, inclusive, multipartyism that will not be dominated by senseless nationalism of any kind, left or right, whose proponents believe that only they – or the people who look like them – must dictate the terms for everyone else. No one group belongs to South Africa more than all the others. And no one group owns all the real estate on historic oppression and pain. 

The new government of national unity has a responsibility to exercise balance, emotional maturity, empathy, and a uniting leadership from the front, underpinned by South Africa’s constitutional values. This must happen even in the face of a seemingly irresistible, yet misplaced, lure of African nationalistic fervour sold to the gullible through misleading shared revolutionary goals of an unfinished liberation. 

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*Solly Moeng is a Brand Reputation Strategist