South Africa's humbled ANC seeks to form national unity government

South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) will invite opposition parties to form a government of national unity, leader President Cyril Ramaphosa said after the party lost its majority in last week's elections.

"We agreed to invite political parties to form a government of national unity as the best option to move our country forward," Ramaphosa said on Thursday after a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee in Johannesburg.

"We must act with speed to safeguard national unity, peace, stability, inclusive economic growth, non-racialism and non-sexism."

The ANC lost its majority in the 29 May vote – the first time this has happened since the end of apartheid 30 years ago. However, it remains the country's largest party and will control 159 of the 400 seats in the new National Assembly.

The election outcome has created a complex situation for Ramaphosa and his party. Political parties have to form a government before parliament convenes to elect the country's president.

The constitutional deadline, which will fall on or near 16 June, is putting pressure on the ANC and others to reach an agreement quickly.

Difficult search for partners

Forming a unity government will not be easy for the ANC. The next three biggest parties – the pro-business, white-led Democratic Alliance (DA), the populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) led by former president Jacob Zuma, and the hard-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – all have very different ideological and economic programmes.

If a coalition is formed, it would not be the first time.


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