South Africa’s Coalition Negotiations Reach Critical Stage

As the clock ticks down to the first meeting of South Africa’s parliament since the ruling African National Congress (ANC) lost its majority in the recent elections, intense coalition talks are ongoing to establish a new government.

The ANC has announced a significant “breakthrough” in forming a government of national unity, though specifics remain undisclosed. Solly Malatsi, spokesperson for the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), revealed to the BBC that while “major aspects” of a framework deal have been settled, “we are not there yet.”

A secret vote on whether Cyril Ramaphosa will remain president is one of the first tasks for the new parliament. Despite the coalition deal still being finalized, it is widely expected that Mr. Ramaphosa will be re-elected. The ANC, which garnered 40% of the vote in the 29 May election, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years, necessitating the support of other parties for Mr. Ramaphosa to retain power.

“We are currently in discussions with political parties,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula stated following a meeting of the party’s top officials on Thursday evening, though he declined to offer further details. He indicated that the coalition would lean towards the political center, as left-leaning breakaway ANC parties have refused to join.

The pro-business DA has agreed to participate in a government of national unity with the ANC, but the exact terms of cooperation remain unresolved, according to Mr. Mbalula. “If the DA were to get some of these things that it wants, it means the ANC will be dead,” he commented. The DA finished second in the election, securing 22% of the vote.

Mr. Malatsi mentioned that “key outstanding matters” still need to be addressed. The Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which came fifth with 4% of the vote, has already committed to joining a government of national unity.

President Ramaphosa has previously accused the DA, which primarily draws support from racial minorities, of being “treasonous” and “reactionary.” A coalition with the DA would be unpopular among many ANC activists. The DA’s advocacy for free-market economics clashes with the ANC’s left-wing traditions and is seen by critics as favoring the white minority.

Despite branding the coalition as a Government of National Unity (GNU), the ANC has been unable to secure the participation of the third- and fourth-largest parties—former President Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

MK demanded Mr. Ramaphosa’s resignation as a condition for joining the coalition, which the ANC rejected. On Thursday evening, Mr. Malema stated that the EFF would not join any government that included the DA, accusing it of being part of the “imperialist agenda.” Both MK and EFF also demanded constitutional changes to allow for nationalization, including of white-owned land and banks. Mr. Ramaphosa opposed these demands, stating that the ANC would not form a coalition with parties seeking to amend the constitution.