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PoliticsSouth Africa

South Africa: ANC eyes potential coalition partners

June 3, 2024

Informal talks between South African party bigwigs are underway in an effort to form a governing alliance following last week's election. DW asked ordinary South Africans who they want in their winning coalition.

A worker removes a campaign banner of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa
The sharp drop in ANC support has fueled speculation that Cyril Ramaphosa's days might be numberedImage: James Oatway/REUTERS

South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) emerged from the country's May 29 election with just 40.2% of the vote — down from 57.5% five years ago.

The ANC, who liberated South Africa from apartheid in 1994, scored the largest share of any party but without the comfortable majority it has enjoyed for the last 30 years. It now needs to choose a partner with whom to govern, plunging South Africa into unknown political waters.

As political party leaders embark on coalition talks, ordinary South Africans are debating the best potential partners for the ANC, with the center-right Democratic Alliance (DA), former ANC president Jacob Zuma's uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the Marxist-influenced Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) at the top of the list to form the next government.

IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya reveals the final poll results of the 2024 South African elections in front of a large South Africa flag
Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC lost its 30-year-old governing majority in last week's bruising general electionImage: UPI Photo/IMAGO

Some South Africans told DW they wanted the ANC to form a coalition with the DA, arguing that the two parties have valuable governing experience. The DA's experience comes at the provincial level in the Western Cape, where the major tourist city of Cape Town is located, while the ANC brings its national experience to the table.

But Muzi Ngobese, a strong critic of a potential ANC-DA alliance, said Black South Africans would end up being completely ignored under such a scenario.

"A DA-ANC coalition will be something more of a disadvantage to the progress of what our heroes fought for in 1994 because it would mean less for the development of Black-owned businesses," he said.

Muziwakhe Mafungo said he would support an ANC-EFF coalition — provided that EFF leader Julius Malema was its president.

"The best coalition that can happen right now is between the EFF and the MK, and then maybe the ANC because the ANC can't do anything," Mafungo told DW. "I believe the EFF will challenge the ANC even if they go into a coalition with them."

But critics fear the EFF's stance to nationalize mines and banks and expropriate land without compensation could scare investors and worsen unemployment.

South Africa's ANC loses majority: What's behind it?

Will Ramaphosa be forced to step down? 

The sharp drop in ANC support has fueled speculation that the days of the party's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, might be numbered — either due to the demands of a prospective coalition partner or as a result of an internal leadership challenge.

But ANC's secretary general, Fikile Mbalula, said Ramaphosa would remain as party leader and any demands from others that he resign for talks to go ahead was "a no-go area."

"Ramaphosa is the president of the ANC and if you come to us with those demands, forget it. If you come to us with the demand that Ramaphosa must step down as a president, that is not going to happen. We've got no such mandate," Mbalula said, adding that the ANC was open to talks with every other political party in an effort to form a government.

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Regarding Zuma's MK, Mbalula said the ANC has their reservations but would still talk with them.

"If they want to work with us, we will map out how we want to do it. But no political party will dictate terms like that to us, as the ANC, we will not. That is a no-go area to everyone."

The MK recently said it cannot negotiate with the ANC if Ramaphosa is still its president.

DA happy with its growth in voters

Democratic Alliance (DA) national spokesperson Solly Malatsi applauded the party's election results, adding that their support has grown among Black and Muslim voters.

The DA which is often accused of being a party for white, middle-class voters, has shown its standing by getting votes in South Africa's Gauteng province, which includes South Africa's business capital, Johannesburg, and the sprawling townships of Soweto and Alexandra.

"We are very satisfied with the outcome of the election," Malatsi told DW. 

"From the day's perspective, we have experienced growth compared to the 2019 elections. We have grown among Muslim voters, we have grown amongst Black voters. We have grown to the extent that we have gained three more seats."

Malatsi said the Democratic Alliance has appointed a negotiating team to engage with political parties and establish a sense of whether there is a willingness to work together.

"There is no doubt that between the DA and the ANC the two largest political parties based on the votes that emerged in this election, a conversation is necessary to explore possibilities," he said.

South Africa's ANC heading for historic election losses

He, however, added that the DA is not interested in forming a coalition with either the EFF or the MK.

"One of the most obvious things that we said even going into the election is that the DA would never be part of any arrangement whatsoever that includes the Economic Freedom Fighters because we stand on opposite sides of policy on issues with them, and also the MK and the Patriotic Alliance because there is such a lot of distance between our core values and their core values," said Malatsi.

'Zuma to fight for us'

Supporters of Zuma's uMkhonto we Sizwe — meaning "spear of the nation" in the Zulu language — were happy with the young party's results, many of whom told DW that they believe Zuma will be able to change things for them.

"What makes me put my hope in the MK is that I know that Zuma is able to fight for us in a lot of things, for us Black people," said Lungi Mkhwanazi, an unemployed youth.

Sakhile Shezi, a local factory worker, said they saw things happening "during the time when Zuma was in power."

Zuma told a media briefing on Saturday that his party had allegedly discovered evidence of vote rigging and fraud, and that it was demanding a rerun of the election. He even threatened to take legal action against the Independent Electoral Commission.

IEC Chairperson Mosotho Moepya confirmed that the electoral commission had received over 500 complaints over the conduct of the elections, and said these were being addressed.

Under South Africa's constitution, the newly-elected parliament must convene within two weeks of the results being declared, and one of its first acts must be to choose the nation's next president.

Thuso Khumalo and Reuters contributed reporting.

Edited by: Keith Walker

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