Cyril Ramaphosa is re-elected South Africa president in ‘new era’ of coalition

Cyril Ramaphosa is re-elected South Africa president in ‘new era’ of coalition

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa was re-elected to the country’s highest office for a second term late on Friday after he secured a dramatic coalition deal just hours before a vote in parliament.

His party, the African National Congress, and its largest rival – the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance – have settled an agreement to work together in South Africa’s new government.

It represents a historic shift for the country after 30 years of uninterrupted rule by the ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela.

Mr Ramaphosa won a convincing majority of 283 votes in the vote for president in the 400-member house, beating Julius Malema from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters who got only 44.

The 71-year-old leader’s party struck a last-minute deal with their political foes from the Democratic Alliance and some other smaller parties.

Mr Ramaphosa’s ANC lost its majority in elections held two weeks ago, plummeting to just 159 seats but remaining the largest party. It is South Africa’s first national coalition where no one party has a majority in parliament.

Mr Ramaphosa called the coalition deal a “new birth, a new era for our country” and said it was time for the parties to “overcome their differences and to work together”.

"That a number of parties that had opposed each other... have decided to work together to deliver this result has given a new birth, a new era to our country," he said.

"It will once again be a privilege and pleasure to serve this great nation... (as) president," Mr Ramaphosa said in a speech to parliament, describing the coming government as an era of hope and inclusivity.

“This is what we shall do and this is what I am committed to achieve as the president,” he said.

The Democratic Alliance’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 has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

A source within the Democratic Alliance, which won 87 seats in the election, told Reuters that the party would receive the post of deputy speaker of the National Assembly as part of the deal.

The ANC had long been seen as unbeatable in national elections, ever since Nelson Mandela led the party to a victory in the 1994 election that marked the end of apartheid.

The party’s support has been waning in recent years, however, with voters becoming increasingly disillusioned by persistently high levels of poverty, inequality and crime, rolling power cuts and corruption in party ranks.

The new national unity government includes the Inkatha Freedom Party, which won 17 seats, and has a largely ethnic Zulu base.

The newly formed populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party led by former president Jacob Zuma won 58 seats, but has alleged the election was rigged and says it will boycott the new parliament. The Constitutional Court has dismissed the party’s case alleging fraud, saying it has no merit.

Additional reporting by agencies