Multi-Party Charter goes a step farther towards a real new dawn
Multi-Party Charter represents first time in South Africa’s democracy that there could be a real change in government.
A group photo of all the leaders of political parties involved during the media briefing on the first day of the National Convention for 2024, 16 August 2023. Picture: Neil McCartney / The Citizen
The biggest and perhaps oldest democracies in the world have survived for as long as they have because the ruling party is always aware that any perceived form of misrule will be heavily punished by the opposition and if the transgressions are big or serious enough, the electorate will replace the ruling party with the opposition.
The Westminster parliamentary system that is used in Britain and the representative system that is used in the United States of America both somewhat manage to keep the president (or prime minister) and the majority party from abusing the mandate to rule.
In both instances, only two major parties are ready to govern. The most significant pillar of those democracies is the certainty that the ruling party never feels indispensable.
Until the establishment of the opposition Multi-Party Charter this past week, South Africa’s democratic system felt like it was failing the voter because there was no opposition party big enough or ready enough to replace the ruling ANC.
With official opposition only polling less than 25% of the total national vote, it is understandable that at one stage former ANC president Jacob Zuma could arrogantly declare that the party would rule until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
But the Multi-Party Charter changes everything, theoretically at least, until it is tested at the polls. The 2024 general election has been billed as a game-changer for South Africa in that it could possibly be the first election in which no party will achieve the 50% majority required to form a government on their own.
This is where the Multi-Party Charter between the opposition parties offers just a glimmer of hope for South Africans, hope that the new government could be formed by parties to the exclusion of the ruling ANC.
The multiparty pact conceived by Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen and referred to as the moonshot pact in the beginning, seemed impossible to achieve at first as its name suggests, but it has put together a tentative coalition of the opposition which, at current estimations, represents above 30% of the total vote.
That might seem some way off the required 50% but it is the first time in South Africa’s 30-year-old democracy that the ruling party has been confronted by a voting bloc as large as this going into an election.
The ideological exclusion of the Economic Freedom Fighters and Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance from the multiparty agreement could prove very costly for the country if they end up getting into bed with the ruling party to ensure another five years of ANC rule.
But the coalition itself would be a huge departure from the current structure, which has allowed the ruling party to develop the arrogance of believing it is capable of attaining enough votes to rule until the second coming.
As could be expected, the ANC came out guns blazing and labelled the opposition collective as “a party of losers”.
The only reason that they responded this swiftly is because even they can see that this agreement represents the first time in South Africa’s democracy that there could be a real change in government.
It is not a foregone conclusion that change is definitely coming, but in the same way that the arrival of President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 was labelled a new dawn, which turned out to be as deceptive as a mirage in the desert, this opposition party coalition represents a real milestone.
Possible interparty squabbles notwithstanding, this multiparty agreement goes a step farther towards a real new dawn.