JOHANNESBURG: The African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday began holding ‘high-stakes’ internal talks, regarding which parties it may approach to form the next government. Currently, the diametrically opposed Marxists and free-marketeers are on the menu of ‘possible’ options.

The ANC has dominated the political landscape for 30 years, since the charismatic and principled Nelson Mandela led the party to power, in the 1994 general elections. This marked the end of apartheid rule. However, the ANC lost its majority in last week’s national vote. It does remain the single largest party in the country but can no longer govern alone.

Voters ‘punished’ the former liberation movement for high levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality, rampant crime, rolling power cuts and corruption. These problems have held South Africa back and will undoubtedly be a challenge for the next government.

The ANC has secured 159 seats out of 400 in the new National Assembly, whilst the free-marketeer ‘Democratic Alliance’ (DA) has won 87 seats. The populist ‘uMkhonto we Sizwe’ (MK) has secured 58 seats, the ‘Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) 39, the socially conservative ‘Inkatha Freedom Party’ (IFP) 17 and the far-right ‘Patriotic Alliance’ (PA) nine.

“The ANC is still trying to make up its mind about what it wants to do,” stated Charles Cilliers, who is the co-founder and head of strategy for the PA. The PA calls for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and the return of the death penalty.

“Everyone is reliant on the ANC coming to a decision. There’s a lot of pressure on them from big money, from big business in South Africa, to work with the DA,” he told journalists’.

The DA portrays itself as a champion of business and free-market economics. They favour scrapping some of the ANC’s flagship ‘Black empowerment’ measures, which it alleges have not worked. Often accused of representing the interests of the privileged white minority, the DA rejects this label and says good governance benefits all South Africans.

The new parliament must convene by the 16 of June. One of its first acts will be to choose the nation’s president. As things stand, that looks likely to be the incumbent, ANC leader ‘Cyril Ramaphosa’. However, he may come under pressure to quit or prepare for a succession (given his party’s poor showing).

A working committee of 27 ANC officials was due to meet on Tuesday, to draw up a menu of options to present to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Wednesday.

Scenarios

The Daily Maverick, a South African news website, published details from three internal ANC discussion documents, which it said it had obtained to outline possible scenarios. According to one of these documents, the preferred option was a confidence-and-supply agreement in which the ANC would hold executive power, with some positions for the IFP, whilst the DA would have the upper hand in parliament, holding the Speaker’s seat and powerful committee positions.

Under this scenario, the DA and IFP would ‘agree’ to support the ANC minority government on key votes such as the budget or any confidence motions, in exchange for ‘policy concessions’ and involvement in the legislative process.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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