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South Africa

S.Africa’s new centre-right government promises unity, action

todayJuly 1, 2024 5

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new coalition government heralds a pragmatic centre-right shift as opposition parties take control of more than a third of ministries, bringing hope for better governance but also cohesion fears.

The African National Congress (ANC), which has governed since the advent of democracy in 1994, keeps 20 of the 32 cabinet positions, including foreign affairs, finance, defence, justice and police.

The historied party of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela sought to form a government of national unity after losing its outright parliamentary majority in May 29 elections.

Weeks of tough negotiations followed, with the ANC choosing to align itself with the centre right, a move some analysts said would assure investors.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the ANC’s largest coalition partner, takes six ministries.

“The time for collaboration has arrived,” DA leader John Steenhuisen, 48, who is appointed agriculture minister, said on television.

His centre-right party fought hard to win influential ministries, such as education, environment and infrastructure, he said.

The DA had been a constant critic of the president and his humbled ANC, whose drubbing at the ballot box followed a failure to create jobs, tackle crime and revive a buckling economy.

The new coalition must “now start delivering for the people of South Africa”, Steenhuisen declared.

“The establishment of the government of national unity in its current form is unprecedented in the history of our democracy,” said 71-year-old Ramaphosa in a televised speech on Sunday.

His highly anticipated announcement came after weeks of thorny negotiations between the ANC and the DA, which won 87 parliamentary seats — or 22 percent of the popular vote — to the ANC’s 159 seats or 40 percent.

Despite proposals from the radical leftist parties, the ANC sought an alliance with the centre right.

“People made it clear that they expect political parties to work together to deliver on a mandate of transformation, growth and renewal,” Ramaphosa said.

The new government’s priorities will be tackling poverty and inequality through sustainable, inclusive economic growth, the president said.

Ramaphosa had previously promised to slim down his cabinet.

In the end, however, he defended his decision to appoint 32 ministers in order to make room for the handful of parties in his new government.

The Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), anti-immigration party Patriotic Alliance and right-wing Afrikaans party Freedom-Front Plus and other smaller parties got six cabinet places between them.

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa hailed a new era in the history of South African democracy.

Appointed the new minister of Traditional Affairs, Hlabisa said the government would achieve its mandate through “collective wisdom” which did not require a particular ideology but rather a “common purpose”.

The formation of the new government was criticised by leftist parties, including newcomers uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), formed just months ahead of the poll by former president Jacob Zuma, 82.

The MK said it would join a newly formed parliamentary grouping, which includes several mostly leftist opposition parties represented in parliament.

Along with leftist firebrand party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the MK shunned the ANC’s broad coalition with the DA as a “white-led unholy alliance”.

The DA has long struggled to shake off an image of representing the white minority.

ger/zam/kjm

AFP

(NAMPA / AFP)

 

Written by: Staff Writer

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