Government of National Unity: ANC-DA-IFP – it’s official!

Government of National Unity: ANC-DA-IFP – it’s official!

South Africa’s newly elected parliament met on Friday to re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa to form an unprecedented coalition government after his humbled ANC cobbled together a deal.

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The leader of South Africa’s second largest party, John Steenhuisen of the centre-right the Democratic Alliance (DA), said it had reached an agreement with the ANC to form a multi-party coalition government

“The DA has reached agreement on the statement of intent for the formation of a government of national unity,” he said, adding that the DA and the Zulu nationalist IFP would back the coalition, which they are calling a government of national unity.

“We will be supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa in his election for the president of the republic of South Africa,” Steenhuisen said, during a pause in the opening session of South Africa’s seventh parliament since the advent of post-apartheid democracy in 1994.

Earlier, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had opened the first sitting, swearing in MPs in batches ahead of planned votes on the election of a speaker, deputy speaker and the president.

Members of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party took the oath wearing red overalls and in some cases rubber boots and plastic construction worker helmets.

But they will not be supporting the incoming administration, having refused to countenance joining an alliance with right-wing or white-led parties.

Ramaphosa, the fifth African National Congress president in 30 years, had called for a government of national unity after his party lost its absolute majority in last month’s general election.

But the EFF and other leftist parties shunned the deal.

ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula, anticipated on Thursday that the government would “gravitate to the centre” – backed by the DA, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and other smaller groups.

“We have reached a breakthrough on the common agreement that we need to work together,” Mbalula told a news conference in Cape Town.

EFF chief Julius Malema, a former ANC youth leader who wants to nationalise land and some privately owned businesses, said his group was not ready to join hands with right-wing parties.

Graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma’s new uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party has disputed the May 29 election results and its MPs boycotted Friday’s first sitting of the 400-member assembly.

Ramaphosa is now expected to win the secret ballot of MPs to confirm his re-election. If that happens, he would be sworn in next week in Pretoria and then unveil his new cabinet.

Post-apartheid democracy

For three decades since the defeat of apartheid, the late Nelson Mandela’s ANC has held an absolute majority and elected a president from its own ranks.

But the former liberation movement – weakened by corruption and recent governments’ poor economic performance – has seen support collapse, leaving it with only 159 seats.

Backing from the free market DA and its 87 MPs will secure a comfortable majority, especially with the addition of 17 more from the Zulu nationalist IFP, which is also joining the coalition.

“At the heart of this government of national unity statement is a shared respect and defence of our Constitution and the rule of law,” Steenhuisen said.

The coalition agreement extended to Johannesburg’s Gauteng province and  KwaZulu-Natal. It included a consensus mechanism to deal “with the disagreements that will inevitably arise”.

“Make no mistake about it. This is not the end of the process. And the road ahead will not be an easy one,” Steenhuisen said, explaining that the two-week deadline imposed by the constitution to form a government did not leave enough time to iron out all details.

Millionaire businessman

A former trade unionist turned millionaire businessman, 71-year-old Ramaphosa first came to power in 2018 after Zuma was forced out under the cloud of corruption allegations.

Once described by Mandela as one of the most gifted leaders of his generation, Ramaphosa played a key role in the negotiations that brought an end to apartheid in the early 1990s.

Upon taking the reins of the country, he promised a new dawn for South Africa. But critics say he has disappointed.

Under his watch unemployment has reached an almost record high, pushing the ANC towards its worst election result ever.

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse