New S.Africa unity government makes pragmatic bid to deliver on promises

General |Author: AFP | July 1, 2024, Monday @ 20:21| 1484 views

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) speaks to people attending his inauguration at the south lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria on June 19, 2024. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's new coalition government heralds a pragmatic shift to the centre right 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, will head six ministries.

But "the possibility of butting heads is already clear", political analyst Sandile Swana told AFP.

Swana said "a pending problem is that the DA sees itself as perhaps coming to rescue the ANC" and "superior".

The ANC, meanwhile, regards itself as the "legitimate leader of society because they are still twice the size of the DA", he said.

- 'Stubbornness, bullying' -

"The attitude of stubbornness, bullying and superiority between the DA and ANC comes from both directions," he said.

However, DA leader John Steenhuisen, 48, who is appointed agriculture minister, said on Monday that the "time for collaboration has arrived".

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

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

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

Hlengiwe Ndlovu, from the Wits School of Governance, said the portfolios handed to the DA "can be viewed as cynical".

"They have been given the departments they have criticised the most, but also the DA could be strategically positioning themselves to take over the country," she said.

"If the DA picks up where the ANC was struggling and shows good progress after five years, it will play in their favour," Ndlovu said, adding the DA targeted posts that mean most to the average South African such as infrastructure and education.

Ramaphosa's highly anticipated cabinet announcement late Sunday 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.

- 'Collective wisdom' -

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 Patriotic Alliance, 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.

© Agence France-Presse


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