ANC in talks with opponents on forming next government Parties have a two-week deadline to elect a president, and analysts said the ANC would likely need to concede to an array of demands to bring others on board for a coalition government.

JOHANNESBURG. – After failing to get a majority in last week’s election, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has begun closed-door negotiations with its political opponents to begin talks about forming a coalition government.

On Sunday, the Electoral Commission (IEC) announced that elections in South Africa were “free and fair”, but with no single party gaining an outright majority. 

The final election results confirmed the ANC’s decline in support to just more than 40 percent of the vote – far less than the absolute majority it had for the past 30 years after bringing about an end to apartheid.

Parties have a two-week deadline to elect a president, and analysts said the ANC would likely need to concede to an array of demands to bring others on board for a coalition government.

The ANC held a meeting of its national leaders on Saturday where they discussed coalition permutations and the possibility of forming a “government of national unity”. Such an arrangement would be reminiscent of the era of former president Nelson Mandela, who led a government of national unity from 1994 until 1997. Mandela was the president, with FW De Klerk, the last apartheid prime minister, as his deputy. Leaders of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were part of the cabinet.

But public policy expert Kagiso “TK” Pooe, said that a government of national unity might only work if built around clear goals that all parties can agree to.

“Key among them will be the economic recovery of the South African economy and promoting employment,” he said. 

“Secondly curtailing the problem of institutional corruption and inefficiency.” 

Without the will to commit to such objectives, “the coalition will always be at the precipice of failure and fallout,” he said.

A weakened ANC

The ANC, in addition to its national setbacks, also lost the majority in three provinces that it currently rules: KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Northern Cape. 

It suffered its worst blow in KwaZulu-Natal, where former President Jacob Zuma’s MK Party swept up support.

The centre-right Democratic Alliance, the official opposition, saw marginal growth in its support with 21,8 percent of the vote, and the left-wing Economic Freedom Fights (EFF) saw a dip in their support to 9,5 percent of the vote.

Former president Jacob Zuma and his uMkhonto we Sizwe party (MK Party) were the biggest election winners. The party, formed only in late 2023, contested elections for the first time and secured third place with 14,6 percent of the vote. 

It is now the largest party in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province.

Against that backdrop, the ANC said on Sunday that it had begun exploratory talks with other political parties as it digested the consequences of its plummeting support.

“The ANC is committed to the formation of a government that reflects the will of the people. That is stable, and it can govern effectively,” ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula said at a news conference.

He sought to call for calm, committing the ANC to act responsibly amid widespread uncertainty.

“The voters of South Africa have shown that they expect the leaders of this country to work together in the interests of all. 

“We will continue to act responsibly, progressively and at all times in the interests of the people of South Africa,” he said. 

“We will continue to uphold the rule of law and call on all South Africans to respect the laws, rules and codes that govern the conduct of elections.”

An ANC-DA alliance?

The ANC is scheduled to have several top-level meetings this week to try to crystalise its coalition plans.

One option could be to strike a deal with the DA – traditionally its main opponent. A coalition involving South Africa’s largest and most mainstream parties could be more stable than partnerships with newer, more radical formations, many analysts have said.

Both parties are also more conservative economically than the MK Party and the EFF, which espouse left-leaning policies.

The DA on Sunday announced that it would begin talks with the ANC in an effort to block what some have described as a “doomsday coalition” between the ANC, EFF and MK Party.

“I, too, am a father to three young daughters. And, like millions of other South Africans, I do not want them to grow up in a country run by a party like MK, that wants to abolish the constitution which so many fought and died for, that wants to subvert the judiciary, and that plans to expropriate all private property and nationalise the Reserve Bank,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a briefing. 

“These are the things contained in the manifestos of the EFF and MK.”

The DA has set up a high-level team to manage talks with the ANC.

But stitching together an ANC-DA coalition will not be easy.

Lukhona Mnguni, a political analyst, said the ANC and the DA’s constituencies are “fundamentally opposed to each other”.

“If they position it as a quasi-government of national unity, then it may have an opportunity to work,” he said.

Mnguni said as far back as 2018, business leaders touted an ANC-DA coalition as a more stable option for the country. – AL Jazeera

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