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S.African Parties Cool Towards ANC’s Broad Coalition Plan

by Selinda Phenyo
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South Africa's ANC party led by President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is seeking a government of national unity


Plans by South Africa’s ANC to form a government of national unity after last week’s general election met a cool reception on Friday, with some potential partners reserving judgement or appearing hostile to the idea.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress won 40 percent of the vote — its lowest score ever — and for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994 it needs the backing of other groups to govern.

The new parliament is to meet in about 10 days and one of its first tasks will be to elect a president to form a new government.

After marathon ANC talks on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the party had decided to try to band together with a broad group of opposition parties, ranging from the far right to the hard left.

But Julius Malema, leader of the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), seemed unwilling to join hands with rivals holding radically different political views.

“We can’t share power with the enemy,” Malema wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“You can’t dictate the way forward as if you have won elections. We are not desperate for anything, ours is a generational mission.”

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South Africa’s ANC party led by President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is seeking a government of national unity Phill Magakoe

The ANC will have 159 members in the 400-seat National Assembly, down from 230 in 2019.

Ramaphosa said negotiators already held talks with parties including EFF, the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) and the anti-immigrant Patriotic Alliance (PA).

The EFF, which secured 39 lawmakers supporting land redistribution and the nationalisation of key economic sectors, is ideologically at odds with the DA, which won 87 seats with a liberal, free-market agenda.

Yet, analyst Sandile Swana noted the two parties have cooperated in the past and Malema’s outburst might be tactical.

“To get anything out of negotiations you have to demand the maximum upfront. It’s a starting position,” he said.

A broad coalition could work if it focused “on the technocratic aspects rather than the ideological aspects”, he added.

South Africa has had a government of national unity before.

The first democratic administration led by late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela included the ANC and its bitter rivals the National Party and the IFP.

On Friday, the IFP, which won 17 seats last week, said that “in principle” it was not averse to a repeat.

“However, the devil is in the details, which will become clearer in the coming days thus enabling the IFP to make a well-considered decision,” said spokesman Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

PA spokesman Charles Cilliers similarly told AFP that the party, which won nine seats, retained “an open mind”. “We will consider the ANC’s proposal and then make a decision,” he said.

Others, like the right-wing ActionSA party, had already said they had no interest in working with the ANC and would remain in opposition.

The DA is yet to comment on the matter.


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