Tue | Jul 23, 2024

We have a deal

South African president set for reelection after dramatic late coalition agreement

Published:Saturday | June 15, 2024 | 12:07 AM
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa raises his hand as he is sworn in as a member of parliament yesterday. At right is Pemmy Majodina, an ANC  lawmaker.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa raises his hand as he is sworn in as a member of parliament yesterday. At right is Pemmy Majodina, an ANC lawmaker.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP):

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to be reelected for a second term Friday after his African National Congress (ANC) party signed a last-minute coalition agreement with its long-time political rival as the new Parliament convened to choose the country’s leader.

The deal, which parties referred to as a government of national unity, will bring the ANC together in government with the Democratic Alliance (DA), a white-led party that had for years been the main opposition and a fierce foe for the ANC.

At least two other smaller parties will also be part of the agreement that put South Africa into uncharted waters with the first national coalition government in its democratic history.

“The government of national unity is on track,” ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said. “For the interest of the country, we said let’s work together. We have no fear of that.”

The agreement was necessary after the ANC lost its 30-year majority in a humbling national election for it last month. It was a turning point for Africa’s most industrialised economy. The ANC is the party of Nelson Mandela and had governed with a comfortable majority ever since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule in 1994.

That three-decade dominance ended in the May 29 election, when the ANC’s share of the vote dropped to 40 per cent amid discontent from South Africans over high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

All the parties have said they would put their differences aside to work in the best interests of the country. However, analysts warned there might be complications ahead given the starkly different ideologies of the ANC, a former liberation movement, and the centrist, business-friendly DA – the two biggest parties and the key players. The DA won 21 per cent of the vote in the national election, the second largest share.

For one, the DA disagreed with the ANC government’s move to accuse Israel of genocide in Gaza in a highly sensitive case at the United Nations’ top court.

DA leader John Steenhuisen was the first to confirm that an agreement was dramatically signed on Friday when Parliament was in a break.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” Steenhuisen said as he broke away from the proceedings to make a speech that was carried live on television. He called it an “historic step forward”.

Steenhuisen said the DA would back the 71-year-old Ramaphosa for president and because the two parties have a clear joint majority of seats in Parliament, Ramaphosa’s reelection now appeared to be assured.