People's Bulletin: GNU gives RISE Mzansi an opportunity to show what New Leaders do when they are given an opportunity to lead

Remarks by
Songezo Zibi
June 24, 2024

Knowing that this was our first election as a new organisation, one of the things I emphasised repeatedly during the election campaign was that we were going “to fight for the issues outlined in our manifesto”. I said this deliberately to show that our most important task in parliament is to make sure that benefits flow to voters even if we do not win the election.

I also did this to demonstrate that being “in opposition” is not just about being a watchdog to see if a governing party does something wrong. Voters choose parties and representatives because they want change in their lives. At the next election, this is the most important measure they use. “What have you done for us?”, is usually the question. This means you must be able to name the things you have made possible.

Of course, holding parties in power accountable is also important. Voters want to see parties they voted for demanding answers on failures of government or legislation. In other words, voters want both accountability and proof of delivery. Because we are a new organisation, we knew that this would mean working with other political parties to achieve these outcomes, otherwise there would be nothing to show for our presence in parliament over the next five years.

The most important thing we committed to doing was to do our work in good faith. This means we would be sincere in our dealings, and not oppose for the sake of opposing. This means we would support policies, motions and laws that are in line with our own principles and manifesto and oppose those that are not.

In practice, sometimes we would agree with parties like the ANC and the DA, who were our adversaries during the election. Other times we would disagree with them. For example, the DA’s Glynis Breytenbach wants to introduce a bill establishing a new Chapter 9 institution called the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Although we contested the DA in the Western Cape, having vowed to fight all forms of corruption, the mature thing to do would be to support the exploration of such an idea, including public comment.

Supporting the DA on this does not mean we would support its position on black economic empowerment. In other words, the power of the votes entrusted in us would best be effected by joining up with others on matters of common interest to our voters and the public.

No Majority Winner

This election produced no majority winner, the first time this has happened since we became a democracy 30-years ago. This means parties that were at each other’s throats would need to find a way of forming a government. We cannot function without one. For the last 30-years the ANC has been the majority party, able to form national government on its own. It cannot do that now. In other words, it must convince some of its opponents to contribute towards forming a government.

Failing to win a majority weakens a political party in that it must make concessions to its opponents for a government to be formed. On the other hand, it also means that voters from different parties get to benefit on some of the issues most important to them.

RISE Mzansi’s Position

You will have heard that the RISE Mzansi National Leadership Collective (NLC) has considered its position in Parliament and decided to be part of the grand coalition called the Government of National Unit (GNU). This is for very practical reasons, some of which I outline below:

Committee Work

Most of parliament’s work is done in portfolio committees, which the public hardly gets to see unless there is a big news event, and it gets shown on TV. With only two Members in Parliament (MPs) and one in the Gauteng Legislature, the only way to cover as many committees as possible is to share the responsibility with like-minded parties so that we represent one another’s positions in deliberations. In that way we make inputs on many more issues than the number of MPs we have.

If we do not cooperate in this way, then voters may think we got to parliament and did very little. But having representation in various committees enables us to comment on a variety of issues because we have been represented and briefed in joint caucus.

Strategic Considerations

Following the election results announcement, we immediately engaged with various parties about working together. Most of those parties are now part of the GNU. One of the questions for consideration was whether we should stop working with them simply because they were in the GNU? Clearly not.

Secondly, the other job of an MP as I said above, is ensuring political accountability. Clause 24 of the GNU Statement of Intent commits to sharing committee leadership assignments. This means they will support one another when committee chairpersons are elected.

Should this clause be implemented properly, a new organisation like ours can lead a committee and the setting of its agenda. That gives us an opportunity to show what New Leaders do when they are given an opportunity to lead.

The final consideration is whether we believe we are most effective by working with other parties as above and making our inputs in many more critical forums or by being outside. We believe that, and as I said on the campaign, we should be in the room and make sure that the issues contained in our manifesto are placed on the table and deliberated on.

We do not expect to win every battle, but we will make best endeavours to convince other parties to pay attention to the same issues close to our hearts, such as eliminating hunger.


The country is in a unique moment in that there has never been a national coalition government forced by election outcomes in our democracy. As we considered our options, we also knew that parties that have stated their intention to trash the Constitution cannot be our partners. We stated early on that we want to uphold the South African Constitution.

The GNU is an experiment whose success depends on how much the parties act in good faith. If some or most do not act in good faith, it will fail. We intend to act in good faith, agree where the logic is clear, and disagree where necessary. But we will always do this in good faith, not for cynical political reasons.

That is the kind of new leadership we believe the country needs.