Cyril Ramaphosa calls on parties to work together to form government as ANC loses majority

South Africa’s former liberation movement must form coalition with a larger opposition party or group of smaller ones to stay in power

President of the African National Congress (ANC) and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa: The ANC got only 40.18 per cent of the vote in last week’s election, a drop of over 17 per cent on its performance in the 2019 elections. Photograph: Michele Spatari/AFP

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africa’s political parties to work together to meet the people’s needs at the announcement of general election results that saw the ruling party lose its majority in parliament.

Speaking shortly after the results were confirmed on Sunday , Mr Ramaphosa said South Africans expected their parties to “find common ground, to overcome their differences, to act and work together for the good of everyone”.

The president’s words of assurance came at the end of a week in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party was handed its worst electoral performance in the post-apartheid era by voters tired of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement in government.

The ANC, which has won every general election outright since 1994, secured only 40.18 per cent of the vote in last week’s election, a drop of over 17 per cent on its performance in the 2019 elections.


This means the former liberation movement needs to form a coalition with one of the larger opposition parties, or with a group of smaller ones, to remain in power.

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Indeed, some political analysts predicted that pressure would come on Mr Ramaphosa to resign in the wake of the ANC’s poor election showing. However, one of party’s top six leaders confirmed on Sunday that he would remain at the helm of the ANC.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the official results’ announcement, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula warned opposition parties that Mr Ramaphosa’s removal could not be part of any coalition talks.

“Ramaphosa is the president of the ANC. If you come with such demands, forget it. That will not happen. We will talk to everyone, but do not dictate to us,” said Mr Mbalula.

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The Democratic Alliance came second with 21.80 per cent of the vote, while newcomer the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, fronted by former president Jacob Zuma, came third with 14.59 per cent. The radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters came fourth with 9.51 per cent.

Mr Mbalula said the result showed the ANC needed to continue with the corrective measures it had introduced under Mr Ramaphosa, because “if we don’t strengthen our process of renewal and many other things we need to do as a party – we will be gone”.

Since it became clear the ANC would lose its parliamentary majority, the idea that it should form a government of national unity with other large parties, like the one formed in 1994 at the end of apartheid to promote reconciliation, has begun to gain traction.

Early election results suggest ANC will need to form coalition to stay in power in South AfricaOpens in new window ]

However, tensions were running high on Sunday, after Mr Zuma insisted on Saturday that the Independent Electoral Commission must postpone announcing the results, as his party believed the election was rigged and a revote was needed.

“Nobody must force us to accept the results when the results are not fine. The institution needs to satisfy us. Nobody must declare tomorrow and, if it does, they will be provoking us,” he warned.

Several small parties have also questioned the validity of the ballot’s result, but all the bigger parties have accepted its outcome other than the MK party.

Police minister Bheki Cele said the country’s security forces were ready to ensure a peaceful environment around the general election is maintained.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa