ANC leaders propose government of national unity after losing majority in South Africa

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An influential committee in the African National Congress (ANC) has recommended the party form a government of national unity, as the group tries to build a coalition after losing its parliamentary majority in South Africa for the first time since it swept to power at the end of apartheid.

The second largest party, the pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA), has ruled out working with the fourth-largest, Marxist-inspired Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). However, some analysts said that the lure of power may end up bringing most of the largest parties together.

The ANC’s majority collapsed in the 29 May vote from 57.5% in 2019 to 40.2%, amid high unemployment and degraded public services, as well as a challenge from former president, Jacob Zuma, whose new uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party came in a surprise third place.

“The conversation is looking at a government of national unity, because this is what the people of South Africa have said to us: put together a multiparty arrangement that works for the benefit of South Africa,” ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri told a press briefing at the party’s headquarters. “The ANC has reached out to everyone.”

She said the proposal from the party’s 27-member national working committee would be sent to the national executive committee, its 87-member decision making body, on Thursday, alongside other options including a minority government.

Bhengu-Motsiri said the ANC had met with the DA and EFF, as well as the Zulu-nationalist Inkatha Freedom party and the Patriotic Alliance, which supports deporting illegal immigrants and reintroducing the death penalty.

“The DA position is that we wouldn’t want to be part of a governance arrangement with the EFF,” said Solly Malatsi, the party’s spokesperson. Its leaders have repeatedly said warned of a “doomsday coalition” between the ANC and the EFF or MK, who support nationalising the central bank and seizing the land of white farmers.

“We don’t want a government of national unity, we will end up with the wrong people,” EFF leader Julius Malema, a former ANC youth leader, told a press conference last week, adding that his party only talks to the white-led DA “out of principle”.

“It makes the most sense for the ANC and the DA to do a coalition, but both of them could suffer politically if they do that,” said Marisa Lourenço, a political analyst. “So I think a government of national unity is a way to appease all political players.”

She said the DA and EFF are likely to swallow their differences: “There’s a lot of power attached to being in a government of national unity.”

MK leaders say they won’t work with the ANC under current president Cyril Ramaphosa. MK spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela said there had been no contact from the ANC since “overtures” while votes were still being counted and that it is preparing a legal challenge to the election results.

Bhengu-Motsiri said: “The ANC has repeatedly reached out to MK for an engagement meeting with no positive response,” adding, “Our door remains open.”


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