close
close

Advice | South Africa, elections, ANC, majority, Democratic Alliance

Votes are still being counted in South Africa, but it looks like the African National Congress will lose its governing majority in parliament. It is a dramatic first after apartheid: The ANC, the party of the late Nelson Mandela, has been in power since 1994. Despite this historic rebuke, the ANC remains the largest faction with about 40 percent of the seats in the 400-member body. Parliament will choose the next president. Therefore, the incumbent president, Cyril Ramaphosa, must find a coalition partner to obtain the necessary 201 votes.

Mr Ramaphosa, who lost support in part because he was seen as indecisive, has never faced a more important choice. In making it, he must remember that there is much more at stake than another presidential term for himself. South Africans were clearly fed up with the ANC’s widespread corruption, incompetent delivery of basic public services such as water and electricity, rampant unemployment among the country’s black majority and worsening inequality. The country’s future, and that of the entire continent, depends on stabilizing South African democracy and restoring it as a strong engine of economic growth.

Given the angry mood of voters and the strength of the ANC’s left-wing traditions, Mr Ramaphosa will undoubtedly be tempted to join one of the ANC’s two splinter parties. The Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, a quasi-socialist party, received about a tenth of the vote. Led by Julius Malema, a red beret-wearing man who ousted the ANC more than a decade ago for insubordination, the EFF is calling for a sweeping confiscation of white-owned agricultural land, possibly similar to the confiscation seen in Zimbabwe ended disastrously under socialist president Robert. Mugabe. Mr Malema has been convicted twice for hate speech, including a call to “shoot de Boer” (a reference to Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans). Many political analysts in South Africa rightly call a potential ANC-EFF coalition ‘the doomsday scenario’.

Equally troubling, albeit for different reasons, would be an ANC coalition with uMkhonto weSizwe or MK, which is on course to capture about 14 percent of the vote, drawn disproportionately from its base in KwaZulu-Natal province. It is a left-wing ethno-nationalist Zulu party formed by 82-year-old former ANC president Jacob Zuma, whose terrible term in office, from 2009 to 2018, accelerated the province’s economic decline. He resigned over corruption charges and was briefly imprisoned, sparking deadly riots by his supporters that left 300 people dead. Mr Zuma courted controversy earlier in his career when he was tried and ultimately acquitted of rape after blaming his accuser for wearing a knee-length skirt and claiming he showered after sex to improve his chances of Reduce HIV infection.

The most logical step for the ANC would be to join forces with the second-place Democratic Alliance, which is on track for a vote share of about 21 percent. Certainly, this would require the ruling party to move towards the ideological center. The DA, as is known, is a pro-free market party of the centre-right, which is ideologically closest to the British Conservative Party, according to DA leader John Steenhuisen. The party is more pro-Western than the ANC; For example, the DA is opposing the Russian invasion of Ukraine more forcefully and loudly. This could bring a much-needed new balance to the country’s foreign policy in general and its relationship with the United States in particular.

As a potential partner for the ANC, the DA suffers from being seen as the party of South Africa’s privileged white minority (about 8 percent of the population), a category to which Mr Steenhuisen and many of his parliamentary representatives belong. Yet the roots of the DA partly lie in the liberal White party that opposed apartheid before the transition to democracy. It may also be difficult for the ANC to work with a party that campaigned against it by publishing a database of ruling party loyalists appointed to key government positions without qualifications, a corrupt process known as “cadre deployment.”

Yet the ANC has always been a collection of factions and not a strictly ideological party. Mr Ramaphosa, who held several top positions in the ANC under Mr Mandela, who later became a private sector millionaire, comes from the party’s more moderate wing. He should be able to make room for the public prosecutor under the big tent of the ANC. Such a coalition could give South Africa a strong, multi-ethnic governing majority, based on three-fifths of the vote, capable of implementing the necessary economic reforms. That would be good for South Africa, the continent and the world.

Back To Top