South Africa coalition talks go down to the wire

As South Africa’s parliament convenes for the first time since the African National Congress (ANC) lost its majority in the recent elections, negotiations are ongoing for the establishment of a new government.

The ANC has announced a “breakthrough” in the formation of a government of national unity, but details have not yet been disclosed.

Hellen Zille, former leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), who is representing the party in the talks, stated that if an agreement is not reached, the DA will not support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s re-election.

One of the first tasks of parliament on Friday will be a secret vote to determine whether Mr. Ramaphosa will continue as president.

However, Ms. Zille mentioned that the two sides are very close to reaching a deal.

“At 2 am this morning, we thought we had a finalized agreement, but a few issues have arisen and they are currently being resolved.”
In the 29 May election, the ANC experienced a significant loss as it failed to maintain its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years, receiving only 40% of the vote. Consequently, in order for President Ramaphosa to retain power, the ANC now requires support from other political parties. Following a meeting of the party’s top officials on Thursday evening, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula informed reporters that they are currently in talks with various political parties, although he could not provide further details. It is worth noting that the ANC is seeking to form a government of national unity, with the pro-business DA being one of the parties in agreement. However, the ANC and DA have yet to reach an agreement on the specifics of their cooperation. Mr. Mbalula expressed concerns that if the DA were to obtain all their desired concessions, it would essentially spell the end for the ANC. The DA secured second place in the election, receiving 22% of the vote.
According to the spokesman for the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mr. Malatsi, there are still important matters that have not been resolved as of the end of Thursday, hindering the progress of negotiations.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a Zulu nationalist party, has confirmed its participation in a government of national unity, despite only receiving 4% of the vote and ranking fifth in the elections.

President Ramaphosa has previously criticized the DA, which mainly garners support from racial minorities, labeling them as “treasonous” and “reactionary”.

Ms. Zille acknowledges the longstanding rivalry between the DA and ANC, stating that building trust within the span of 10 days has been a challenging task.

Reaching an agreement with the DA would be met with opposition from many ANC activists due to ideological differences. The DA advocates for free market economics, which contrasts with the left-wing traditions of the ANC, and is often criticized for representing the interests of the white minority.
The ANC attempted to form a Government of National Unity (GNU), but it was unsuccessful in convincing the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to join. MK insisted that President Ramaphosa resign as a condition for entering the coalition, but the ANC rejected this demand. Meanwhile, the EFF refused to join a government that included the DA, citing it as part of an “imperialist agenda.” Both MK and EFF also called for changes to the constitution to allow for nationalization, including of white-owned land and banks. President Ramaphosa opposed these demands, stating that the ANC would not form a coalition with parties seeking constitutional changes.