Historic Unity: ANC and DA Forge Coalition for South African Governance

The African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have agreed to co-govern South Africa in a momentous political shift after 30 years of ANC rule. This coalition marks a significant turn since Nelson Mandela's 1994 election victory, transitioning the nation towards a multiparty government.

Reuters | Updated: 14-06-2024 21:01 IST | Created: 14-06-2024 21:01 IST
Historic Unity: ANC and DA Forge Coalition for South African Governance

The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa's new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule. Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

"Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we've embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one," DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address. "From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration," he said, adding that multi-party government was the "new normal".

The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in talks with other parties that went down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening. "Today is a remarkable step in the aftermath of the 29th of May," ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula told reporters, adding that parties included in the unity government would be cooperating in both the executive and the legislative branches.

The DA's entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party denies being a defender of rich white people, saying good governance and a strong economy would benefit all South Africans, but has struggled to convince a broad spectrum of citizens that it reflects their aspirations.

Helen Zille, a senior DA figure, said Steenhuisen's skin colour was irrelevant. "The melanin-quotient of the DA leader is the least significant aspect of this historic agreement," she said in a post on X critical of some media headlines.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. Meeting in a Cape Town convention centre because its permanent home was damaged by fire in 2022, the new National Assembly elected the ANC's Thoko Didiza as its speaker. It was then due to elect its deputy speaker and the head of state.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, the 71-year-old ANC leader, is expected to win a new term with support from the other parties in the unity government pact. A DA source said the party would receive the post of deputy speaker of the National Assembly as part of the deal.

INVESTORS WELCOME DEAL Long seen as unbeatable in national elections, the ANC lost support in recent years as voters wearied of persistently high levels of poverty, inequality and crime, rolling power cuts and corruption in party ranks.

The ANC won 159 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, while the DA got 87. The populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party led by former President Jacob Zuma has 58, the hard-left Economic Freedom Fighters 39 and the Inkatha Freedom Party 17. The ANC's central dilemma since the election had been whether to work with the DA, which investors like because of its free-market policies but is unpopular with ANC voters who see it as a defender of the privileged white minority's interests.

The inclusion of the IFP, with its ethnic Zulu base, may help sweeten the DA pill for ANC voters. The Patriotic Alliance draws its support from the coloured (mixed-race) community. The News24 website published details from a draft statement of intent it said had been circulated to party negotiators by ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula. Reuters saw the document but could not immediately confirm its authenticity.

Among the "basic minimum programme of priorities" outlined in the document were rapid, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, the promotion of fixed capital investment and industrialisation, job creation, land reform, infrastructure development, structural reforms and fiscal sustainability. London-based research firm Capital Economics said in a note that the prospect of a coalition involving the ANC and DA was being well received by investors because there was expected to be policy continuity or an acceleration of reforms, and because the EFF and MK would be excluded from policymaking.

Zuma's MK came third in the election but alleged it was robbed of victory by vote-rigging, and is boycotting the new parliament. The Constitutional Court rejected MK's application to stop parliament sitting on grounds of fraud, saying it had no merit. (Additional reporting by Alexander Winning, Tannur Anders, Bhargav Acharya, Sfundo Parakozov, Kopano Gumbi and Tim Cocks; Writing by Estelle Shirbo; Editing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean and Timothy Heritage)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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