South African parties agree to form a coalition government for the first time

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Johannesburg – After talks that lasted late into Thursday night, Friday morning brought the news that South Africa would soon have its first coalition government. Uncertainty has prevailed since the late Nelson Mandela’s party, the long-ruling African National Congress, lost its majority in May’s national elections.

The ANC said on Thursday it would work with other political parties to form a government of national unity – similar to the route Mandela himself chose after the historic elections that brought him to power in 1994 as the first democratically elected president of the country. the ANC, now led by incumbent President Cyril Rampaphosa, remained unclear until late Friday morning.

In the end, it was not a deal for a unity government, but a coalition between the ANC and its main rivals, the Democratic Alliance party, and a number of other smaller parties that received a much smaller share of May’s vote. The deal was announced Friday morning as new and returning lawmakers were sworn into their roles in Parliament.

President Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd right) and fellow ANC members are sworn in during the 7th session of the South African Parliament, June 14, 2024, at the Cape Town Convention Center in Cape Town, South Africa.  /Credit: PAP/GettyPresident Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd right) and fellow ANC members are sworn in during the 7th session of the South African Parliament, June 14, 2024, at the Cape Town Convention Center in Cape Town, South Africa.  /Credit: PAP/Getty

President Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd right) and fellow ANC members are sworn in during the 7th session of the South African Parliament, June 14, 2024, at the Cape Town Convention Center in Cape Town, South Africa. /Credit: PAP/Getty

The DA agreed to support Ramaphosa’s election to a second term as president, with an ANC leader as speaker of parliament and a DA leader as deputy speaker. The remaining details and ministerial positions were still being finalized.

Previously, the ANC had announced that several parties would form a national unity government, including the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Front, prompting some critics to say the ANC was working with “white parties.” EFF leader Julius Malema, whose party won 9% of the vote, had previously said his party would not join a unity government with the former “oppressive parties”.

The controversy was raised late on Thursday evening by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who told journalists: “For us it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white… The question is how we can move the country forward.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, center, is seen during the first session of parliament after the 2024 national elections in South Africa, at the Cape Town International Convention Center, June 14, 2024. / Credit: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg/GettyDemocratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, center, is seen during the first session of parliament after the 2024 national elections in South Africa, at the Cape Town International Convention Center, June 14, 2024. / Credit: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg/Getty

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, center, is seen during the first session of parliament after the 2024 national elections in South Africa, at the Cape Town International Convention Center, June 14, 2024. / Credit: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg/Getty

The DA, the main opposition party, has been favored by South African business leaders and won the second highest number of votes nationally, with almost 22%. The country’s leadership had previously said they would not join a unity government that would include the EFF.

Former President Jacob Zuma’s MK party, a fierce critic of Ramaphosa who finished a surprise third in last month’s national election, said it would not work with the ANC if the incumbent remained as leader.

Zuma has a long history of bitterness with Ramaphosa, who was subsequently elected president of the ANC Zuma expelled as a member on multiple allegations of corruption, which he has always denied and claimed to be a victim of unlawful prosecution.

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