South Africa faces political uncertainty after ANC loses majority in election

African National Congress has ruled since end of country's apartheid era

South African President and ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, left, attends the official announcement of election results in Johannesburg on Sunday. Getty Images
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President Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africa's political leaders to work together and said there was no place for threats of violence after his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years in last week's election.

The vote count released on Sunday gave the ANC 159 places in the 400-seat National Assembly with about 40 per cent of the ballot. It was the lowest tally in a general election since it came to power after the fall of apartheid.

The centre-right opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) was on 87, former ANC leader Jacob Zuma's uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) on 58 and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of leftist firebrand Julius Malema on 39, followed by several smaller parties.

The new parliament is to meet within two weeks and its first task will be to elect a president to form a new government.

In an address after the official results ceremony, Mr Ramaphosa was coy about his thinking regarding a coalition deal but stressed the need for all parties to respect the result and work together.

"Our people have spoken, whether we like it or not," he said, in an apparent nod to the expected legal challenge from MK and the implicit threat of unrest. As the leaders of political parties ... we must respect their wishes."

Mr Zuma's party was formed barely eight months ago as a vehicle for the charismatic but controversial 82-year-old former president to re-enter politics after being forced out of office as president and ANC leader in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations. MK said it was considering challenging the election results in court, despite performing much better than many had expected to come in third with 14.6 per cent of the vote.

Analysts have long feared Mr Zuma's party may stir up trouble if his supporters, who rioted and looted for days when he was arrested for contempt of court in 2021, reject the results.

The Democratic Alliance's veteran white leader John Steenhuisen repeated his pledge to work with the ANC, if only to head off what he has declared would be the "doomsday coalition" between the ruling party, MK and the EFF.

He described pledges in the MK and EFF manifestos to nationalise privately owned land and undermine judicial independence as "an all-out assault on the constitution of our country".

ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula told AFP the party was having "exploratory discussions at the moment, we talk to everybody". He said the ANC hoped to achieve a deal "as fast as we can".

Updated: June 04, 2024, 4:49 AM