‘Not possible to give the Democratic Alliance deputy president post’ – Cosatu

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AS South Africans eagerly await the announcement of Cabinet, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s swearing in on Wednesday, media reports suggest that the Democratic Alliance is demanding the post of Deputy President for its leader John Steenhuisen.

In the May 29 general elections, the ANC received its worst election result since apartheid ended 30 years ago in South Africa. The ANC garnered 40% of the vote, losing its absolute majority in Parliament.

IOL last week reported that Ramaphosa had officially begun his second term after his party formulated the government of national unity incorporating its decades-old rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other smaller parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Patriotic Alliance (PA).

The ANC said the 10 political parties constituting the GNU together secured over 70% of the vote in the 2024 elections, ensuring broad representativity and a strong mandate to govern South Africa. Some of the political parties however have publicly demanded specific Cabinet ministries in the seventh administration.

Weekend media reports suggested that the DA team in the negotiations is demanding that Steenhuisen takes the second in command post at the Union Buildings in Pretoria – a position currently occupied by ANC’s deputy president Paul Mashatile. The DA is also reportedly demanding at least 10 Cabinet posts in the new government – including economic portfolios.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Matthew Parks, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) parliamentary coordinator, said he doesn’t believe the ANC would give in to such demands and give Steenhuisen the influential post of deputy president.

Parks also poured cold water on the prospect of a second deputy president post being created to accommodate Steenhuisen.

“We are a trade union federation, we are used to negotiation cycles were parties always present extreme demands at the beginning but settle somewhere where it is more acceptable to all parties, in the middle. Look, it will not be possible to give the Democratic Alliance the deputy presidency. I cannot see the ANC doing that,” said Parks.

Cosatu’s Matthew Parks. File Picture

“You would have to amend the Constitution to have two deputy presidents but that could be done. It would take a few months. I am not sure that is absolutely necessary. One assumes the DA just put some slightly ambitious, maybe even outrageous demands in the beginning and hoping to get a better deal at the end of the day.”

Parks said Cosatu does not believe the economic portfolios in the Cabinet should also be from the DA.

“It is still early days, but I think economic portfolios are quite critical. For example (ministry of) trade and industry, that is critical towards BEE (black economic empowerment) and the DA has a history of opposing BEE, most critical towards supporting local industries, local procurement, and again the DA does not have a good history on that front,” he said.

Cosatu believes the situation has become “quite complicated” because of policy differences of the parties invited by the ANC into the government of national unity.

“For example, we would never agree to the DA holding the ministry of employment and labour because their entire manifesto has been about scrapping labour laws. Look, you have a Cabinet with potential of 30 or so portfolios, ultimately the political parties will be forced to find some way to accommodate each other,” said Parks.

At the end of the day, Parks said Cosatu wants a Cabinet which is coherent and stable to run the seventh administration of South Africa.