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Cyril Ramaphosa re-elected South African president

Ramaphosa's ANC lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years in last month's elections. It got 40 per cent of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance (DA) came second with 22 per cent.
Last Updated : 15 June 2024, 06:55 IST

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Johannesburg: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been reelected by lawmakers for a second term after his African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance struck a historic deal to form a coalition government by setting aside their rivalry.

Ramaphosa's ANC lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years in last month's elections. It got 40 per cent of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance (DA) came second with 22 per cent.

The new government of national unity combines Ramaphosa's ANC, the centre-right DA and smaller parties.

Ramaphosa, 71, easily won the late Friday vote against Julius Malema, leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Ramaphosa got 283 votes and Malema just 44.

Parliament earlier in the day also elected Thoko Didiza of the ANC as Speaker and Annelie Lotriet of the DA as Deputy Speaker.

Ramaphosa is expected to announce his new Cabinet after his inauguration on Wednesday.

In his victory speech, Ramaphosa hailed the new coalition, and said voters expected the leaders to "act and to work together for the good of everyone in our country".

His election, which ended days of speculation, came close to midnight on Friday with last-minute inter-party discussions to establish a government of national unity (GNU). The Parliament session witnessed frequent interruptions and long voting processes.

The ANC teamed up with the largely-white DA, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which came fifth, as well as the minority party Patriotic Front (PF), drawing mixed reactions from both members of their respective parties and citizens.

Some welcomed the alliance as a new era in South African politics which would send a strong message of reconciliation and bolster the ailing economy, especially after Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK) - the new party started by ousted former president Jacob Zuma - and the EFF, which came fourth, refused to work with the DA.

Others said the ANC had sold out the citizens of the country by partnering with the DA, which had been the official opposition and opposed several ANC policies since the latter first came to power under Nelson Mandela in 1994.

The GNU partners however were unanimous that the coalition was in the interests of the people of South Africa.

“We were voted for by six million people who want us to continue the transformational agenda to changing the lives of the people for the better,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said at a media conference as the voting inside Parliament continued. He conceded that the ANC could not do it alone.

“We are in no position to govern this country alone. We need to work with others,” Mbalula said.

DA leader John Steenhuisen was also buoyant.

“The statement that emerges from the past two weeks of intense but very mature negotiations charts a new course for our nation.

“At the heart of this statement is a shared respect in defence of our Constitution and the rule of law, including the Bill of Rights, in its entirety,” Steenhuisen said.

IFP spokesperson Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi said the party had agreed to vote for the candidates proposed by the ANC.

“As leaders, the people of this country entrusted us and it is up to the 400-member who are in the house to decide as to how they take the country forward,” Buthelezi said.

“I’m just excited that South Africa has been put first by our leaders,” said PF leader Gayton McKenzie.

South Africa was on a knife edge until 20 minutes before the start of the session on Friday morning when there was still uncertainty about the GNU.

MK surprised analysts and polls by coming third in the elections but decided to stay away from the Parliamentary session to protest alleged irregularities in the election, for which they have not provided any proof yet despite lodging a legal procedure.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said the DA was born out of the colonial apartheid era and was only interested in “protection of white minority interest and privileges.” Other minority parties refused to join the GNU, but with just a few seats in Parliament, some with only one, their votes were considered negligible in the final tally.

Premiers for the nine provinces were also elected at separate sittings in provincial capitals.

A coalition inspired by the national GNU led to the IFP defeating MK, despite the latter’s majority of 45 per cent in KwaZulu-Natal province, for the Premier’s position.

In the Western Cape, which has been governed by the DA for several years already, its candidate was returned to the Premiership.

All seven other provinces, including the economic hub of Gauteng, now have ANC premiers again.

Amid concerns that investors would stay away if EFF and MK with their nationalisation policies came to power, shares on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange surged as news of the GNU emerged, especially in the financial sector.

The ANC had always polled above 50 per cent since the country's first democratic elections in 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela become president.

However, support for the party has been dropping significantly because of anger over high levels of corruption, unemployment and crime.

Addressing South Africa's parliament after his confirmation, Ramaphosa called back to his party's first presidential victory 30 years ago.

"We have been here before, we were here in 1994 when we sought to unite our country and to effect reconciliation - and we are here now," he said. PTI FH MNK NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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Published 15 June 2024, 06:55 IST

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