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South African opposition parties holding crunch talks on the ANC’s unity plan. But deep rifts remain

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African opposition parties met Friday and will continue crucial talks into next week to consider the ruling African National Congress’ offer to be part of a national unity government.

The ANC failed to win a majority in last week’s hotly contested election, but some opposition parties are already rejecting the party’s offer due to deep-rooted divisions.

Senior officials from the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) will meet on Monday to discuss the centrist party’s approach to the negotiations. Top leaders of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party held talks on Friday.

The parties are under pressure to conclude negotiations and reach an agreement by June 16, because South Africa’s constitution requires them to do so within 14 days of the election results being declared.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the ANC, announced on Thursday that the party had decided to form a national unity government and had invited all parties to join, a process that is expected to be complex considering the wide divisions among its own. opposition parties. .

Most opposition parties not only differ from the ANC on various socio-economic policies, but also extremely disagree with each other on economic policies such as land redistribution and affirmative action.

The opposition party ActionSA has already declared that it will not participate in the negotiations, stating that it refuses to work with the ANC.

In what appears to be a national unity government reminiscent of the path followed by the Nelson Mandela-led ANC after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, the party has decided to invite a myriad of opposition parties to join the government. .

While Mandela insisted on a unity government even though the ANC had won by an overwhelming majority with almost 63% of the national vote, the ANC has been forced to its current situation by its worst electoral performance in its history, falling from the 57.5% it obtained in the 2019 elections to 40% this year, a decrease of 17.5%.

Shortly after Ramaphosa’s announcement, the EFF leader took to X to reject Ramaphosa’s proposal for a national unity government and accused the ANC of arrogance despite failing to win a majority.

The EFF is among the top five parties after the election with just over 9% of the national vote, up from 11% in 2019, but is expected to form a crucial part of the final outcome of the negotiations.

“The arrogance continues even after South African voters raised warning signs. “You cannot dictate the way forward as if the elections had been won,” said EFF leader Julius Malema. “We are not desperate for anything, ours is a generational mission.

“We cannot share power with the enemy,” Malema said.

In 2023, DA declared the Economic Freedom Fighters as its number one enemy.

The DA, which won just over 21% of the national vote to remain the second-largest party, said its top decision-making body, the Federal Council, would meet on Monday to consider its options.

“I can’t say now what the district attorney’s position is, we have a whole negotiating team and on Monday we will meet as a federal council. We will have a framework for the negotiations that we will publish this weekend,” Democratic Alliance federal president Helen Zille said on Friday.

The fifth party with almost 4% of the national votes, the Inkatha Freedom Party, expressed on Friday its willingness to be part of the national unity government, but also planned to discuss the matter with its party structures in the coming years. days. .

“In principle, the IFP is not averse to a GNU (government of national unity). However, the devil is in the details, which will become clearer in the coming days… allowing the IFP to make a well-considered decision,” said IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

The uMkhonto weSizwe party, led by former president Jacob Zuma, who left the ANC, was the last to enter the negotiations, with the party confirming on Thursday that it had entered into talks with the ANC after initially failing to respond to the party’s invitation. .

The party has raised objections over the election results to the country’s electoral body, citing alleged voting irregularities and threatening to boycott the first session of Parliament to swear in the country’s new lawmakers.

Economists say markets are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the negotiations to see the composition of the next government of Africa’s most developed economy and the economic policies it will pursue.

Magome Quilt, Associated Press



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