South Africa: Unity or Discord? South Africa's GNU Takes Center Stage

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation on the appointment of the new Cabinet.
9 July 2024

South Africa has officially formed a Government of National Unity (GNU), which now includes 11 political parties, 32 ministers, and 43 deputy ministers.

During the period between June 1 and 18, 2024, there were more than 800,000 references to conversations about GNU after the election, reports the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC). Many of these mentions were associated with accounts from the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) that claimed that the elections were not free, and fair and rigged.

The MK Party initially applied with the Electoral Court to overturn the election results but withdrew the application. According to CABC, the IEC asked the "Electoral Court to refuse the withdrawal as the party's allegations had negatively impacted the commission's credibility."

During the post-election period, the CABC observed posts countering international views on the election and the GNU, particularly from accounts claiming to represent individuals, parties, or organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Some of the posts argued that people from other African countries were not in a position to express opinions about South African elections. The CABC discovered that different unidentified accounts talking about post-election conflicts and claiming to be Sub-Saharan African or international while promoting notions of polarization or electoral irregularities like @Ngoma_Kurira_ and @kaunda_bongi.

The fact that nationalistic, nativist, xenophobic, and ethnically-based political positions started emerging before and after the election, sets a worrying precedent.

Opinions have been divided over the creation of a GNU. The CABC reports that  some commentators maintain that the GNU formation comprises parties that are perceived as "anti-poor and anti-transformation." In addition, populism, and racial, and ethnic polarization have emerged, with parties and political blocs positioning themselves as either 'for' or 'against' black people.

The IEC updated the election results dashboard to merge national and regional votes, each of which focused on parliamentary appointments that brought allegations of electoral fraud. This tally and reconciliation of ballots led to an increase in some vote counts, such as the ANC's votes rising from 6 million to 12 million.

"It's important to note that these votes had already been considered in the allocation of parliamentary seats, and the updated count represented a combined presentation of the national and regional ballots," reports the CABC.

Some pro-MK Party accounts claimed they received more votes than reported, with some suggesting the MK Party won a national majority. Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama, whose party allied with the MK Party before the elections, also accused the IEC of rigging the elections.

The MK Party, before the dashboard update, capitalized on unfamiliarity with the new 3-ballot system to drive the narrative that  9 million votes had been stolen. This is on the back of allegations by the MK Party that they have access to evidence of widespread vote rigging, which they are not prepared to share "at this stage".

A worrying trend is highlighted in commitment towards disinformation campaigns aimed at eroding trust for IEC's credibility. In various bi-elections leading up to municipal 2026 and national 2029 elections, there may be continued democratic apathy, withdrawal and post-electoral contestation as shown by @dudu_sokhela account belonging to MK Party - degradation of public trust in IEC ahead. Several bodies have attested that the 2024 elections were free, peaceful, and fair. As far as June 2024 is concerned no clear evidence has been accepted regarding electoral fraud or manipulation.

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