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PoliticsSouth Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa reelected as South African president

Kieran Burke | Louis Oelofse
Published June 14, 2024last updated June 14, 2024

South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa needed the support of opposition parties to be reelected as president. He will now form a government of national unity, as per a deal reached earlier.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa was reelected with the support of several opposition parties that will form a government of national unity with his African National CongressImage: Zhang Yudong/Xinhua/picture alliance

Cyril Ramaphosa was reelected as president during the first sitting of South Africa's newly elected parliament late on Friday.

He was reelected with the support of several opposition parties that will form a government of national unity with Ramaphosa's African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC, which came to power in 1994 after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in the recent elections. 

With only 159 out of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, the party had to rely on the Democratic Alliance (DA), which secured 87 seats, to elect Ramaphosa.

Several other parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Patriotic Alliance (PA) will also be part of the government of national unity.

South Africa: Ramaphosa reelected after coalition deal

ANC brokers deal for unity government

Earlier on Friday, the ANC reached a deal to form a unity government with former political foes, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

DA Leader John Steenhuisen said the day would "go down in the annals of history as the start of a new chapter" for South Africa.

"It is my privilege to report to you that after two weeks of thorough negotiations that only concluded after today's sitting of parliament had already started, the DA has reached agreement on the statement of intent for the formation of a Government of National Unity."

The smaller Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) have said they will also join the unity government.

ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said cabinet positions had not been decided yet, "things are fluid.

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Government of national unity the 'buzzword' 

DW correspondent Dianne Hawker has been tracking developments in Cape Town and said the government of national unity was the "big buzzword for today."

"We understand that the ANC and the Democratic Alliance will form the core of that government of national unity," she said.

"The Democratic Alliance is the second largest party in this parliament and has been a longstanding opposition party to the ANC. In fact, during the election campaign period, they were campaigning to save South Africa from the ANC. But they've put those election fights behind them and seemingly now have found a way to move forward with the leaders of the ANC," Hawker explained.

EFF not interested in being part of unity government — ANC secretary general

According to the ANC's Mbalula, the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had refused to join what he still called a unity government.

"We have engaged in exploratory discussions with the EFF, and we did not find each other on the issue of the GNU," Mbalula told reporters. "We have engaged with the DA, we agreed on the GNU with them."

Mbalula said the ANC would continue to engage with the populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, led by former President Jacob Zuma, which has disputed the May 29 election results.

Zuma's party, which won 58 seats, had warned it would boycott Friday's proceedings.

The leaders of the MK and EFF are former members of the ANC, with Julius Malema being at one point the ANC Youth League president before being thrown out of the party, while Zuma was ANC leader for 10 years.

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Parliament's first sitting

The first sitting of parliament was being held in the Cape Town International Convention Center situated just under 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the parliamentary building, which is undergoing extensive renovations after being severely damaged in a fire in January 2022.

Members have been sworn in and have taken their oaths of office, overseen by the country's Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Thoko Didiza, who is a member of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC)  — the party's primary decision making body — was elected as the speaker of the National Assembly, receiving 284 of the 341 votes cast.

Didiza has been serving on Ramaphosa's Cabinet as minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

The DA's Annalie Lotriet was elected at deputy speaker.

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) attends the first sitting of the National Assembly
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for secret ballots to be counted in a manner that could be observedImage: Nic Bothma/REUTERS

President Ramaphosa's nomination did not go unchallenged, with the EFF putting their leader Julius Malema up as a candidate. 

The president will be sworn in at an inauguration that will take place in Pretoria with a tentative date of June 19.

The president will then unveil his new Cabinet, which will include members of his own party and parties in the unity government.

Material from AFP and Reuters was used in compiling this report.

Edited by: Sean Sinico