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Ramaphosa announces date for opening of Parliament, with GNU Cabinet still in the air

The opening of Parliament will take place on former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday this year, where President Cyril Ramaphosa will address a joint sitting of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

In a statement on Friday morning, the Presidency announced that Ramaphosa would address both houses of Parliament on 18 July, to “outline the priorities of the seventh administration”.

“The president has asked that Parliament convene in terms of Section 84(2)(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, read with Rule (13)(1)(a) of the Joint Rules of Parliament.

“The opening of Parliament Address will coincide with the United Nations-declared Nelson Mandela International Day,” the Presidency said.

Will Cabinet be announced before Opening of Parliament?

However, the announcement comes as ANC-Democratic Alliance (DA) talks over Cabinet and executive positions, in South Africa’s government of national unity (GNU), continue to trudge along.

Ramaphosa was elected as president of the country by members of Parliament (MPs) on 14 June 2024 and last Wednesday, he took his oath of office during his inauguration at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

This means South Africa has been without a Cabinet and executive for two weeks, marking a pedestrian start to Ramaphosa’s second term as president.

Ramaphosa’s delay in naming an executive is a consequence of tough negotiations between parties making up the GNU, namely the DA, Inkatha Freedom Party, Patriotic Alliance, Good party and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania.

But the wrangling seems to be specifically between the Ramaphosa-led ANC and the John Steenhuisen-led DA, with letters from both parties this week revealing a nasty fight for Cabinet and executive positions.

Steenhuisen tried his luck?

In a letter dated 24 June 2024, addressed to Ramaphosa, Steenhuisen opens by thanking the president for his hospitality and a “constructive meeting” held on the same day.

The DA leader then goes on to list Cabinet portfolios supposedly agreed upon at the meeting.

However, in same the letter, Steenhuisen proposes that additional portfolios be assigned to the DA to “clear the final hurdle”.

DA proposition for extra Cabinet positions ahead of opening of Parliament

Ramaphosa annoyed by DA’s Steenhuisen

This proposition seems to have irked Ramaphosa, who responded with venom in a letter dated 25 June 2024. In the ANC president’s letter, he chastises the DA leader for “jeopardising the foundation of setting up a GNU by moving the goalposts”.

“I am truly taken aback by how you now want two more portfolios to bring the DA’s portfolios to eight,” Ramaphosa wrote in the scathing letter.

The president ends the letter by stressing the need to urgently name an executive to begin the seventh administration’s work.

“I need to advise that the task of setting up government is quite urgent as we cannot continue with this paralysis. I intend to conclude all negotiations and consultations this week,” Ramaphosa ends.

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