South African parties strike coalition dealFri, 14 Jun 2024 18:47:34 GMT

South Africa’s newly elected parliament met Friday and was expected to re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa to form an unprecedented coalition government after his humbled ANC cobbled together a deal.The leader of South Africa’s second largest party, John Steenhuisen of the centre-right the Democratic Alliance (DA), said it had reached an agreement with the ANC to form a multi-party coalition government.”The DA has reached agreement on the statement of intent for the formation of a government of national unity,” he said. The DA and the Zulu nationalist IFP will back the coalition, which they are calling a government of national unity, he added.”We will be supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa in his election for the president of the republic of South Africa,” Steenhuisen said, during a pause in the opening session of South Africa’s seventh parliament since the advent of post-apartheid democracy in 1994.Earlier, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had opened the first sitting, swearing in MPs in batches ahead of votes on the election of a speaker and deputy speaker.The first post went to the ANC’s Thoko Didiza, a former agriculture minister whose first official task was to initiate voting for her number two. In a first sign the power-sharing deal was working, the deputy’s role went the DA’s Annelie Lotriet. Lawmakers were to elect the president later Friday.- Left out -Members of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party took the oath wearing red overalls and in some cases rubber boots and plastic construction worker helmets. They will not be supporting the incoming administration, having refused to countenance joining an alliance with right-wing or white-led parties.  Ramaphosa, the fifth African National Congress president in 30 years, had called for a government of national unity after his party lost its absolute majority in last month’s general election.But the EFF and other leftist parties shunned the deal.ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula, anticipated on Thursday that the government would “gravitate to the centre” — backed by the DA, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and other smaller groups. “We have reached a breakthrough on the common agreement that we need to work together,” Mbalula told journalists in Cape Town. EFF chief Julius Malema, a former ANC youth leader who wants to nationalise land and some privately owned businesses, said his group was not ready to join hands with right-wing parties.Graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma’s new party, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), has disputed the May 29 election results and its MPs boycotted Friday’s first sitting of the 400-member assembly.Ramaphosa is now expected to win the secret ballot of MPs to confirm his re-election. If that happens, he would be sworn in next week in Pretoria and then unveil his new cabinet.- No easy road -For three decades since the defeat of apartheid, the late Nelson Mandela’s ANC 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 — has seen support collapse, leaving it with only 159 seats.Backing from the free market DA and its 87 MPs will secure a comfortable majority, especially with the addition of 17 more from the Zulu nationalist IFP, which is also joining the coalition. “At the heart of this government of national unity statement is a shared respect and defence of our Constitution and the rule of law,” Steenhuisen said.The coalition agreement extended to Johannesburg’s Gauteng province and KwaZulu-Natal. It included a consensus mechanism to deal “with the disagreements that will inevitably arise”.”Make no mistake about it,” Steenhuisen said. This is not the end of the process. And the road ahead will not be an easy one.”The two-week deadline imposed by the constitution to form a government did not leave enough time to iron out all details, he explained.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.