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06/06/24 | 11:16 pm

South Africa’s ANC meets to decide on preferred partners to govern

African National Congress leaders held talks on Thursday to try to agree on potential partners to form a new South African government after the party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in the democratic era.

The former liberation movement has run South Africa since it swept to power with Nelson Mandela at the helm in the 1994 election that marked the end of apartheid. But it was punished for its chequered record in last week’s election.

While still the largest party, the ANC can no longer govern alone and signalled on Wednesday it would seek to form a government of national unity with a wide range of parties.

“This is a time for sober minds,” said ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula as members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) gathered in Johannesburg for a day of talks.

“We’re looking at all options,” he told reporters.

Mbalula said President Cyril Ramaphosa would disclose what the NEC had decided in a closing address.

South Africa has been struggling with sluggish economic growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, a persistent racial wealth divide, severe power shortages and political corruption.

The election outcome has created a complex situation for the ANC, which will have 159 of the 400 seats in the new National Assembly.

Its nearest rivals are the pro-business, white-led Democratic Alliance (DA), with 87 seats, the populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) led by former president Jacob Zuma, with 58, and the hard-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 39.

MK confirmed in a statement on Thursday that “engagements with the (ANC) have indeed taken place regarding the coalition discussions”.

“A meeting is expected to take place soon, where the MK Party will hear the views presented with an open mind,” it said.

The new parliament has to convene within two weeks of Sunday’s results declaration and one of its first acts must be to elect the president.

The constitutional deadline, which will fall on or near June 16, is putting pressure on the ANC and others to reach an agreement quickly.

Options could include a coalition government, a minority ANC government with backing on key votes from other parties in exchange for policy concessions, or a government of national unity.

ANC’S DIFFICULT SEARCH FOR PARTNERS

“We have engaged with everybody and we are talking to even smaller parties. We want to bring everyone on board,” Mbalula said.

The DA, for its part, signalled on Wednesday it did not want to join a government that also included MK or the EFF.

Any deal with the DA would be welcomed by financial markets but unpopular with many ANC supporters who regard it as a champion of what some South Africans call “white monopoly capital”.

A group of anti-DA protesters stood outside the hotel where the NEC meeting was taking place, holding placards reading “The DA wants to destroy the ANC” and “Not in our names”.

On the other hand, a deal with the EFF or MK, which advocate nationalising mines and seizing land without compensation, would be more popular with some in the ANC base but rattle investors.

Both the EFF and MK are led by former ANC figures who broke away and are at odds with the current leadership. Zuma in particular openly loathes Ramaphosa, and his party said after the election that it would not work with “the ANC of Ramaphosa”.

The ANC said on Wednesday it would not talk to anyone who demanded Ramaphosa’s resignation as a condition of joining an alliance.

Zuma was forced to quit as president in 2018 after a series of corruption scandals. He was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to participate in an inquiry into corruption, a fact that barred him for running for parliament.

(REUTERS)

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