ANC Strikes 11th-Hour Deal To Form Government

South Africa’s long-standing ruling ANC announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with three other parties to form a coalition after failing to gain an outright majority in the May national election.

On the eve of the first sitting of the newly-elected parliament, party secretary general Fikile Mbalula stated that the government would “gravitate to the centre” after leftist parties rejected the arrangement.

“We have reached a breakthrough on the common agreement that we need to work together,” Mbalula told a news conference.

The deal implies that President Cyril Ramaphosa will most likely be appointed for a second term when MPs meet in Cape Town on Friday.

Mbalula defined the alliance as a national unity administration, comprising the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA), the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the minor centre-left United Democratic Movement, and the right-wing Afrikaner Freedom Front Plus (FF+).

The radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were excluded because talks with the party led by fiery politician Julius Malema failed, Mbalula stated.

Graft-tainted former ANC president Jacob Zuma’s political vehicle, the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which finished third in the election, also opposes the coalition.

Mbalula stated that conversations with the party would continue, but the MK has condemned the election results, and its 58 MPs intend to boycott parliament.

Other tiny groups, including Muslim party Al Jama-ah, centre-left Rise Mzansi, and minority National Coloured Congress, have consented to join, albeit with concerns, according to the speaker.

‘Imperialism’ and ‘backwardness’

Since the establishment of post-apartheid democracy 30 years ago, the late Nelson Mandela’s ANC has held an absolute majority and elected a president from among its members.

However, the previous liberation movement, weakened by corruption and poor economic performance, lost popularity in the May 29 election, winning only 159 seats.

In South African elections, the president is chosen from among MPs via a secret ballot in the 400-member National Assembly.

He or she must then appoint ministers to establish the executive administration in Pretoria.

Mbalula stated that the ANC had “invited everybody to participate” in the administration.

However, bridging the gap between the white-led, free-market DA with its 87 MPs and the EFF, which has 39 seats and plans to nationalize property and enterprises, appears to be insurmountable.

Malema, a former ANC youth leader, stated at a news conference on Thursday that his party is open to forming a broad coalition and would support the ANC nominee for president if offered a place as speaker or deputy.

But he rejected the idea of collaborating with the DA and the FF+.

“That represents imperialism, represents racism and white supremacy, represents backwardness,” he said.

Millionaire businessman

Ramaphosa, 71, is a former trade unionist turned rich businessman who first came to power in 2018 when Zuma was forced to resign amid corruption charges.

Mandela once characterized Ramaphosa as one of his generation’s most gifted leaders, and he played a significant role in the discussions that ended apartheid in the early 1990s.

When he took office, he promised South Africa a fresh dawn. However, opponents believe he has disappointed.

Under his leadership, unemployment has reached a near-record level, propelling the ANC to its worst election result ever.

The party’s recent shift to the center, with a coalition supported by both centre-right and right-wing organizations, may erode his popularity, particularly among ANC members.

The broad-church party is a progressive left-wing organization that has managed welfare and economic empowerment programs for low-income black South Africans.

As coalition talks were underway, the idea of an alliance with the DA produced split and dissatisfaction among cadres, and observers believe some ANC parliamentarians may vote against him on Friday, under the guise of the secret ballot.


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