South Africa’s ANC wants national unity governmentWed, 05 Jun 2024 16:27:05 GMT

South Africa’s ruling ANC said Wednesday it had reached out to rivals to form a government of national unity, after failing to win an outright majority in last week’s general election.The final tally gave President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress only 159 members in the 400-seat National Assembly, down from 230 and its lowest score in a general election. ANC spokeswoman Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri told reporters the party had held “explorative” talks with several others, as it tries to secure enough parliamentary support to form a government and elect a president. Its decision-making body was to meet on Thursday to vet all options, including trying to form a minority government, she said.But the conversation was focusing “on a government of national unity because this is what the people of South Africa said to us,” she said.”We have been meeting with all parties that are keen to contribute ideas on how we can collectively move our country forward and form a government that ensures national unity and stability,” said Bhengu-Motsiri. Among those consulted were parties with radically different agendas, such as the centre-right Democratic Alliance, the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party. Bhengu-Motsiri named the EFF, which supports land redistribution and the nationalisation of key economic sectors, and the anti-immigration Patriotic Alliance, as parties that so far appear willing to join. Which groups would finally form part of such a broad-based government was, however, “a function of ongoing negotiations”, she said. The ANC also “repeatedly” reached out to former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which won 14.6 percent of the vote, but received no response. MK, which was only established late last year, has rejected the election results and threatened to boycott parliament. It has also said it would not back an ANC-led government if Ramaphosa remains at the helm. The president’s party plans to keep him.The briefing followed a meeting of the ANC’s top leaders to chart a way forward after the party’s poor showing at the ballot. The ANC won 40 percent — a catastrophic slump from the 57.5 percent it garnered in 2019.- ‘Unpalatable’ -The new parliament is to meet in less than two weeks and one of its first tasks will be to elect a president to form a new government.But a broad national unity alliance might be hard to pull off within the tight time frame.Asked whether the DA would be willing to join a government potentially including the EFF, spokeswoman Charity McCord said the party had: “No comment at this point.” DA leader John Steenhuisen had earlier said he was only open to talks with the ANC to prevent what he calls an ANC-MK-EFF “Doomsday Coalition” that he says would wreck the constitution and economy.The party, which governs Western Cape province and has promised a free-market agenda, holds 87 seats. It is the favourite coalition partner for investors and the business community but its policies are at odds with the ANC’s left-wing traditions. Political analyst Daniel Silke said the ANC was likely floating the idea of a “broad church” government to appease some of its members.”They need to dilute essentially a more narrow arrangement with the DA because … there are many within the ANC who will find the DA unpalatable,” he said.Were the DA or the EFF to push back on such a deal, the ANC would then have to make “a pretty hard and tough decision as to which side of the equation they’re prepared to go on”, Silke added.Together the ANC and the DA hold a comfortable majority in parliament. Any agreement with the EFF, which won 39 seats, would instead require the support of at least another party.