South Africa: A government of national unity in sight?

South Africa: A government of national unity in sight?

The ANC and its 40% are trying to find partners after 30 years of unchallenged domination.

The African National Congress (ANC), the party which has ruled South Africa alone since 1994 and the first post-apartheid elections which allowed Nelson Mandela to win the presidency of the republic, failed to win a new absolute majority in parliament.

With barely more than 40%, the party chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa, outgoing President of the Republic and candidate for a second term, must find one or more partners to manage the country. Like Nelson Mandela, his mentor, Cyril Ramaphosa announced at the end of the week that his party was inviting all its adversaries to the negotiating table to form a government of national unity.

The ANC recognizes that we find ourselves at a key moment in the life of our nation. Our country needs extraordinary leadership and courage to chart the path forward. We must act quickly to safeguard national unity, peace, stability, inclusive economic growth, non-racism and non-sexism,” explained Cyril Ramaphosa, launching this invitation.

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But 2024 is not 1994 and if Nelson Mandela's gesture aimed to unite a country that had entered a new era around a process of national reconciliation, the one made by his heir demonstrates all the fragility of a party deeply divided on the path to follow for the constitution of this new executive.

Tensions at all levels

Indeed, the hand extended by Cyril Ramaphosa is not unanimous within the ANC and arouses downright anger among certain political groups that are well placed to play a role in a future executive.

The ANC needs a partner and the most obvious, but also the most reassuring for the markets, would be a union with the Democratic Alliance (AD), the party that came in second place in this general election with 21% of the vote. . But for many members of the ANC and part of its electorate, this political group is seen as a force which seeks to preserve the economic privileges of the white minority.

The idea of ​​starting with a government of national unity could be a way of making collaboration with the AD acceptable. The ANC would in fact not be responsible for the choice of its partners and the AD has already suggested that it was prepared to enter into a government built on this principle to “preserve the South African constitution”. She also highlighted points of convergence with the ANC on a certain number of reforms aimed at recovering the economy.

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In a text outlining the contours of a possible government agreement, she also notes her willingness to make compromises on subjects that could annoy her potential partner, such as the plan to abandon the minimum wage and positive discrimination policies. At the same time, she rejects the idea of ​​associating in this government with the far-left and anti-white Freedom Fighters (EFF) party of Julius Malema, which came in 4th position with 9.5% of the vote. . A party which has already said that it would refuse to enter a government of national unity with the AD, one of its spokespersons having declared: “We do not want to form a government with the representatives of the white colonial system and apartheid”. The party of former president Jacob Zuma (MK), which came in 3rd position with 14.5% of the vote, should also not enter this government of national unity. The hatred between Zuma and Ramaphosa does not allow such a union to be considered.

The ANC should also count on the support of a small party, the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP – 3.8% of the vote) which has also shown itself open to the idea of ​​entering this government. It would allow the executive to count on a 65% majority in parliament and would prevent the ANC from only joining forces with the AD.

The arrangement is credible but it will have to obtain convincing economic and social results otherwise it will open the way to an even more marked radicalization of an electorate which has already voted more than 25% for extremist parties which will be in ambush throughout the throughout the legislature.