ANC Invokes Mandela As South Africa Rivals Weigh Unity Cabinet

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South Africa’s African National Congress said it’ll seek to form a government of national unity that includes several rivals, a system last instituted when the party first took power under Nelson Mandela three decades ago.

The ANC, which has ruled since taking power in the nation’s first multiracial election three decades ago, is being forced to seek coalition partners 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 40.2% support in the May 29 vote, ceding its parliamentary majority for the first time since apartheid ended. 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 or former President Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party.

It’s unclear whether those parties will buy into the ANC’s proposal for a broad governing coalition, details and modalities of which still have to be negotiated.

The DA will await further comment by the EFF on Ramaphosa’s proposals before deciding on its own response, party officials said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. Its leadership is due to meet on Saturday, while the EFF’s leader Julius Malema will address the media later on Friday.

The Inkatha Freedom Party, which secured the fifth-highest number of votes in the election, said an inclusive government was its preferred option and that it would engage with other parties on how it could work. The MKP said it would wait for a formal approach from the ANC and then respond.

One possible scenario would be for the Ramaphosa to retain the presidency and allocate seats in his cabinet to parties in proportion to their share of the vote. Deals could also be struck to share out executive positions in those provinces where no party won an outright majority.

“A GNU agreement would not be without uncertainty or immune to fractious in-fighting,” said Casey Sprake, an investment analyst at Anchor Capital Ltd. “At this point, no one is sure what the outcome will be — not even the ANC.”

The top leadership of South Africa’s African National Congress said it will seek to form a government of national unity with opposition groups. Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki and Bloomberg’s S’thembile Cele joins Jennifer Zabasajja to talk about the latest attempts at forming some form of coalition. On this episode of Africa Amplified, we also look at the history of the CFA Franc and look at why unions in Nigeria went on strike.

The prospect of leftist parties like the EFF being included in the government has unnerved investors, with the rand weakening immediately after Ramaphosa’s speech late Thursday. It traded 0.7% stronger at 18.8404 per dollar at 10:45 a.m. on Friday.

“Markets may be concerned about the inclusion of the EFF, but the ANC and DA have the numerical strength to vote against potentially unproductive left-leaning policy proposals,” Barclays Plc Economist Michael Kafe said in a research note on Friday.

Ramaphosa said constructive talks have already been held with parties including the EFF, DA, IFP, the National Freedom Party and Patriotic Alliance. He called for a national dialog to unite the nation around common goals, while warning 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 all 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.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen has previously ruled out working with either the EFF or MKP, which both favor 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. Malema has said the EFF would prefer to enter into a coalition.

“We are not Mandela,” he said in response to a question from Bloomberg on June 1. “We want a coalition. We don’t want a government of national unity. We will end up with the wrong people.”

The unity government headed by Mandela included the National Party, which ruled the country during apartheid, and the IFP. It lasted from 1994 until 1997, when the NP pulled out. The difference between then and now is that the ANC won an outright majority and could form a government without the opposition, whereas now a walk out by a larger party would collapse the government.