South Africa’s President Ramaphosa is reelected for second term after a dramatic late coalition deal – Metro US

South Africa’s President Ramaphosa is reelected for second term after a dramatic late coalition deal

South Africa politics
South African président Cyril Ramaphosa reacts after being reelected as leader of the country in Cape Town, South Africa, Friday, June 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was reelected by lawmakers for a second term on Friday, after his party struck a dramatic late coalition deal with a former political foe just hours before the vote.

Ramaphosa, the leader of the African National Congress, won convincingly in Parliament against a surprise candidate who was also nominated — Julius Malema of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters. Ramaphosa received 283 votes to Malema’s 44 in the 400-member house.

The 71-year-old Ramaphosa secured his second term with the help of lawmakers from the country’s second biggest party, the Democratic Alliance, and some smaller parties. They backed him in the vote and got him over the finish line following the ANC’s loss of its long-held majority in a landmark election two weeks ago that reduced it to 159 seats in Parliament.

During a break in what turned out to be a marathon parliamentary session, the ANC signed the last-minute agreement with the DA, effectively ensuring Ramaphosa stays on as the leader of Africa’s most industrialized economy. The parties will now co-govern South Africa in its first national coalition where no party has a majority in Parliament.

The deal, referred to as a government of national unity, brings the ANC together with the DA, a white-led party that had for years been the main opposition and the fiercest critic of the ANC. At least two other smaller parties also joined the agreement.

Ramaphose called the deal — which sent South Africa into uncharted waters — a “new birth, a new era for our country” and said it was time for parties “to overcome their differences and to work together.”

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

The ANC — the famed party of Nelson Mandela — had ruled South Africa with a comfortable majority since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule in 1994.

But it lost its 30-year majority in the humbling national election on May 29, a turning point for the country. The vote was held against the backdrop of widespread discontent from South Africans over high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Analysts warn there might be complications ahead, though, given the starkly different ideologies of the ANC, a former liberation movement, and the centrist, business-friendly DA, which won 21% of the vote in the national election, the second largest share behind the ANC’s 40%.

For one, the DA disagreed with the ANC government’s move to accuse Israel of genocide in Gaza in a highly sensitive case at the United Nations’ top court.

The DA leader John Steenhuisen was the first to confirm the agreement.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said as he stepped away from Friday’s proceedings for a speech carried live on television in which he said a deal was signed and that the DA lawmakers would vote for Ramaphosa for president.

The Parliament session started at 10 a.m. in the unusual setting of a conference center near Cape Town’s waterfront, after the city’s historic National Assembly building was gutted in a fire in 2022. The house first went through the hourslong swearing-in of hundreds of new lawmakers and electing a speaker and a deputy speaker.

The vote for president started late at night, with the results announced well after 10 p.m. Ramaphosa finished his acceptance speech as the clock ticked past midnight and into Saturday.

Former President Jacob Zuma’s MK Party boycotted the session but that did not affect the voting as only a third of the house is needed for a quorum.

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said the party was open to talking with anyone else who wanted to join the unity government. There are 18 political parties represented in Parliament and he said the multi-party agreement would “prioritize the country across the political and ideological divide.”

Some parties, including Malema’s EFF, refused to join.

The two other parties that joined the coalition deal were the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Patriotic Alliance, which has drawn attention partly because its leader, Gayton McKenzie, served a prison sentence for bank robbery.

McKenzie said he had been given a second chance in life and that South Africa also had one now, a chance to solve its deep socioeconomic problems.

The ANC had faced a deadline to strike a coalition agreement as Parliament had to vote for the president within 14 days after election results were declared on June 2. The ANC had been trying to strike a coalition agreement for two weeks and the final negotiations went on overnight Thursday to Friday, party officials said.

South Africa has not faced that level of political uncertainty since the ANC swept to power in the 1994 first all-race election that ended nearly a half-century of racial segregation. Since then, every South African leader has come from the ANC, starting with Mandela.

The new unity government also harked back to the way Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president, invited political opponents to be part of a unity government in 1994 in an act of reconciliation when the ANC had a majority. Ramaphosa had played a key role in those negotiations as a young politician.

This time, the ANC’s hand was forced.

“The ANC has been very magnanimous in that they have accepted defeat and have said, ‘let’s talk,'” PA leader McKenzie said.

Magome reported from Johannesburg.

AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa