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South Africa Faces Historic Political Shift as ANC Loses Majority, Sparking Coalition Talks

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South Africa's ANC loses its absolute majority for the first time in three decades, propelling the nation into a new era of coalition politics. Discover the implications and potential coalition partners.

South Africa Faces Coalition Era as ANC Loses Majority

South Africa is experiencing a historic political shift as the African National Congress (ANC) has lost its absolute majority in the parliamentary elections, a significant departure for the party that ruled alone for 30 years since Nelson Mandela’s administration. With almost 98 percent of the votes counted, the ANC has secured just 40.11 percent, down from 57.5 percent in the 2019 elections, according to the National Electoral Commission (IEC). For the first time, the ANC will have to form a coalition government, signaling a major turning point in South Africa's democratic history.

Two main parties could potentially form a coalition with the ANC: the Democratic Alliance (DA), which holds around 21.71 percent of the vote, and the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with approximately 9.37 percent. An ANC-DA coalition, although ideologically divergent, is seen as likely and would be welcomed by Western allies and investors, according to political analyst Aleix Montana. Conversely, an ANC-EFF coalition might deter investors due to the EFF’s radical policies such as expropriations without compensation.

The emergence of Jacob Zuma's breakaway party, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which gathered around 15 percent of votes, has further complicated the political landscape. Zuma's influence in regions like KwaZulu-Natal has eroded long-standing ANC strongholds, emerging as a significant political force that the ANC might need to contend with in future elections. Previously, the EFF also experienced reduced voter support, indicating shifting political alignments.

Analysts attribute the ANC’s loss to systemic issues such as corruption, poor governance, and high unemployment rates. Additionally, the ANC's internal disputes and rise of new parties like MK have diluted its voter base. Despite the party's initial assurance that President Cyril Ramaphosa would not resign, his future leadership remains uncertain as the parliamentary landscape reshapes.

German companies and international businesses eyeing South Africa are weighing the potential risks and opportunities this political shift presents. The country remains a crucial economic hub, also serving as a political and economic gateway to Africa with substantial international influence. However, the ANC’s choice of coalition partner will significantly impact foreign investment and South Africa’s economic prospects.

The ANC has already begun informal talks with potential coalition partners as the IEC prepares to announce the final results. Political analysts like Mpofu-Walsh foresee a ‘noisy and unstable’ political terrain but also an opportunity for new accountability mechanisms and potential economic redirection.

  • Zuma's successful strategy to attract votes relied heavily on populist policies, appealing particularly to his stronghold in KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma has characterized the country’s struggles as the result of 'white monopoly capital' and labeled his opponents as agents of capital.
  • The ANC, having ruled since the end of apartheid, now joins other legacy liberation movements across Africa that face declining support due to unmet promises and economic challenges. Swana and Bocuse pointed to historical parallels in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya.
  • South Africa’s high unemployment rate, currently around 33%, and systemic corruption have significantly impacted public trust in the ANC. The country’s socio-economic disparities, with 55% of the population living in poverty according to the World Bank, underscore the urgent need for effective governance and economic policies.
Clam Reports
Refs: | Aljazeera | Merkur |

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