South Africa

Government of national unity for South Africa

The top leadership structure of South Africa’s African National Congress said it would seek to form a government of national unity with opposition groups after last week’s election failed to produce an outright winner.

“This moment calls for the broadest unity of the people of South Africa,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said after a meeting of the ANC’s decision-making National Executive Committee east of Johannesburg on Thursday.

“They expect us to find common ground, to overcome our differences and to act together for the good of everyone.”

The ANC won marginally more than 40% support in the May 29 vote, ceding its parliamentary majority for the first time since apartheid ended three decades ago.

That means it will have to secure the support of at least one of its three main rivals to retain power: the business-friendly Democratic Alliance, the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters and former President Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party, or MKP.

The prospect of populist parties being included in the government has alarmed investors. The rand initially retraced earlier gains following Ramaphosa’s comments before trading little changed.

Constructive talks have already been held with parties, including the EFF, DA, Inkatha Freedom Party, the National Freedom Party and Patriotic Alliance, according to Ramaphosa, who called for a national dialogue to unite the nation around common goals.

He warned that the ANC would isolate those who sought “to cause chaos and instability and division,” a thinly veiled warning to Zuma and the MKP, who have rejected the election results.

“The principles we will collaborate with parties on are based on advancing the building of a united nation,” the president said.

“All parties must commit to shared values, nation-building and social cohesion. These values include upholding the constitution of South Africa and the rule of law.”

The ANC faces an uphill battle in getting its rivals to work together. DA leader John Steenhuisen has ruled out working with either the EFF or MKP, which both favour nationalizing mines and banks, while Zuma’s party has said it will only work with the ANC if Ramaphosa is replaced — a condition that’s been rejected outright.

A small group of ANC members staged a protest outside the NEC meeting venue, carrying posters urging the party’s leadership not to partner with the DA — an option favoured by investors and business leaders.

Nelson Mandela led a government of national unity after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. This government included the National Party, which ruled the country during apartheid. It lasted until 1997 when the NP walked out.


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