ANC Considers National Unity Government Amid Election Fallout

ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe shakes hands with Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen
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JOHANNESBURG,— The African National Congress (ANC) is leaning towards forming a government of national unity for South Africa, the party announced on Wednesday. However, the second-largest party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has stated it will not join a government that includes some of its smaller rivals.

Following last week’s election, the ANC lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela led the party to victory in the 1994 elections that ended apartheid. Despite remaining the largest party, the ANC can no longer govern alone due to its diminished support.

Punished by voters for persistent poverty, joblessness, rampant crime, rolling power blackouts, and corruption, the ANC has initiated talks with five parties, including the free-marketeer DA and the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri announced the potential formation of a government of national unity, reflecting the will of the South African people. The party’s National Executive Committee is set to discuss options on Thursday.

The ANC secured 159 seats in the 400-seat National Assembly, while the DA holds 87. The populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), led by former president Jacob Zuma, garnered 58 seats, the EFF 39, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 17, and the far-right Patriotic Alliance (PA) nine.

DA spokesperson Werner Horn stated that the party would not join a government including MK, the EFF, or the PA. Any change in the DA’s position would require approval from its federal governing bodies. The EFF declined to comment on their willingness to join a national unity government.

The South African rand weakened following the ANC’s and DA’s statements, reflecting market anxiety over the political uncertainty.

An internal ANC discussion paper, verified by Reuters, noted that a unity government is the most inclusive option and would prevent the ANC from choosing a potentially unpopular coalition partner. However, the document also warned of the risk of instability and gridlock due to the need to manage partners with diverse interests.

Bhengu-Motsiri emphasized the ANC’s aim to unite a broad range of societal sectors behind the future government and indicated that talks should conclude within a week. She affirmed that ANC leader and President Cyril Ramaphosa would remain in office, dismissing any demands for his removal as a condition for coalition.

The business sector prefers an ANC-DA coalition, favoring the DA’s pro-business stance and its opposition to some of the ANC’s Black empowerment policies. However, such a coalition may be unpopular with the ANC’s base. The South African Communist Party and COSATU trade union group, both major ANC allies, have expressed opposition to a coalition with the DA.

The EFF’s radical proposals, including nationalizing mines and banks and seizing land from white landowners, are seen unfavorably by markets but could attract ANC supporters.

PA spokesperson Steve Motale said his party is open to joining any government that addresses its main campaign promises, especially the “mass deportation of all illegal immigrants.”

Political analyst Melanie Verwoerd noted the ANC’s challenge of making a unity government work while preparing for future elections. She also highlighted Ramaphosa’s experience with broad-based coalitions, referencing his role in negotiating the 1994-1997 national unity government.

Bhengu-Motsiri confirmed that the ANC had approached Zuma’s MK party, which had a strong showing in the election, but was rebuffed. Zuma remains a significant figure in KwaZulu-Natal, where extra police were deployed to maintain public order due to concerns over potential unrest. – IOL