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S. African parliament meets to re-elect weakened ANC president

Cape Town, South Africa | June 14, 2024, Friday @ 06:41 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 1545
S. African parliament meets to re-elect weakened ANC president

African National Congress (ANC) president and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (CL) attends the Special National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Cape Town on June 13, 2024. (Photo by Wikus de Wet / AFP)

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South Africa's newly-elected parliament meets Friday and is expected to re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa to form an unprecedented coalition government after his ruling ANC cobbled together a coalition deal.

The African National Congress leader had called for a government of national unity after his party lost its absolute majority in last month's general election, but two major leftist parties shunned the deal.

Instead, according to ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula, the government would "gravitate to the centre" -- backed by the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA), the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and several smaller parties.

"We have reached a breakthrough on the common agreement that we need to work together," Mbalula told a news conference in Cape Town, confirming that the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had refused to join what he still called a unity government.

Graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma's new electoral vehicle, the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), has disputed the May 29 election results and warned it would boycott Friday's sitting of the 400-member assembly. Mbalula said the ANC was talking to MK, but had not reached agreement.

Ramaphosa is now expected to win the secret ballot of MPs to confirm his re-election.

That would see him sworn in next week in Pretoria and then unveil his new cabinet, presumably including ministers from both the ANC and the former opposition parties in the coalition.

- Post-apartheid democracy -

"The ANC is going into this under the guise of a government of national unity, but really it isn't," political analyst Dr. Hlengiwe Ndlovu of the Wits University School of Governance told AFP. "It's more like coalition talks."

For 30 years since the advent of post-apartheid democracy, the late Nelson Mandela's African National Congress 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 -- saw its support collapse at the May 29 election, leaving it with only 159 seats out of 400.

"Besides the DA and IFP, Ramaphosa will be building up support from smaller parties... as insurance," said author and political analyst Susan Booysen, amid reports that some ANC MPs may vote against their leader.

"He needs that buffer," she told AFP.

But the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters of former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who wants to nationalise land and some privately-owned businesses, will not join the administration.

At a news conference on Thursday, Malema said his members would vote for the ANC candidate for president if they were promised the speaker or deputy speaker position in parliament.

But he denounced the idea of joining a unity government with white politician John Steenhuisen's liberal right DA, which has promised privatisations and market reform.

"We have made it very clear to the president that we are not against the government of national unity," Malema said, recounting a meeting he had held earlier with Ramaphosa.

"We are against the inclusion of the DA and the Freedom Front Plus, because that represents imperialism, represents racism and white supremacy, represents backwardness."

The Freedom Front Plus is a right-wing party, seeking an autonomous Afrikaner homeland.

- 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.

The party's latest tilt towards the centre, with a coalition supported by centre-right and right-wing groups, might further hamper his popularity, particularly among ANC ranks.

The broad-church party is a progressive outfit of the left that has overseen welfare and economic empowerment programmes for poor, black South Africans.

© Agence France-Presse

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