South Africa’s Ramaphosa Begins Consultations on New Cabinet

(Bloomberg) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa began consultations on the appointment of a new cabinet after agreeing to form a broad coalition with opposition parties.

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Talks started on Thursday with leaders of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress and its alliance partners — the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party. More significant discussions with the Democratic Alliance, the second-biggest party in the so-called government of national unity, are scheduled for Friday.

The rand has strengthened and local-currency bonds have been the best-performing in emerging markets this month on optimism that the tie-up between the ANC and centrist parties signals economic reforms initiated under Ramaphosa’s previous administration will continue.

In its talks with the ANC, labor federation Cosatu voiced its opposition to key portfolios being handed to opposition parties.

“It’s critical that cabinet be coherent and stable, be progressive and anchored on the ANC elections manifesto,” Cosatu spokesman Matthew Parks said in an interview. “Key economic and service delivery portfolios that impact upon workers and the economy and advance the transformation agenda must remain with the ANC.”

That would rule out the DA taking control of the finance, trade and labor ministries from the ANC.

Helen Zille, head of the DA’s decision-making Federal Council, told South African news outlets this week that the party wants its leader, John Steenhuisen, to be made a minister in the presidency. She also maintained the DA’s long-standing position that the cabinet must be trimmed down.

Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, confirmed that formal consultations are under way.

“The president is consulting the leaders of the ANC and the alliance as well as parties which are signatory to the government of national unity,” he said by phone. He couldn’t say when the president will finalize his cabinet and there is no legal deadline for Ramaphosa to do so.

The ANC and the DA have been at loggerheads this week over the interpretation of a framework signed last week that will govern their alliance, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified as the discussions aren’t public.

While the DA insists the accord makes provision for representation in cabinet that is proportional to its performance in last month’s election, the ANC insists that the agreement can’t supersede the constitution, which gives the president the prerogative to appoint the cabinet.

“The government of national unity, an ANC-led initiative, ensures that no single party, whether the DA, IFP, or others, can hold our national agenda hostage,” ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “As we navigate through these complex times, the ANC reaffirms its commitment to inclusive governance and national dialogue.”

--With assistance from Mpho Hlakudi.

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