South Africa’s Ramaphosa calls for unity after his ANC loses majority

The African National Congress has lost the country’s elections for the first time in 30 years.

south africa
The African National Congress's President Cyril Ramaphosa waves to ANC supporters during an election rally in April [File: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP]

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the country’s political parties to work together for the good of the country as final results from last week’s election confirmed his African National Congress (ANC) lost its majority for the first time.

The result, announced on Sunday, is the worst election showing for the ANC – Africa’s oldest liberation movement, once led by Nelson Mandela – since it came to power 30 years ago, ending white minority rule.

Voters, angry at joblessness, inequality and rolling blackouts, slashed support for the ANC to 40.2 percent, down from 57.5 percent in the 2019 parliamentary vote.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had 21.6 percent and uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, managed to grab 14.7 percent – pulling away votes from the ANC.

Official results showed the ANC winning 159 seats in the 400-seat National Assembly, down from 230 previously.

“South Africans expect the parties for which they have voted to find common ground, overcome their differences, and act together for the good of everyone. That’s what South Africans have said,” Ramaphosa said after the electoral commission announced the final results.

He called the election a “victory for our democracy”.

“This is the time for all of us to put South Africa first,” Ramaphosa added.

Reporting from the Results Operation Centre in Midrand, South Africa, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna said the ANC will now try to find a way to form a new government.

“It has to find a partner in order to be able to govern. Otherwise, it could try to form a minority government, which could make it very difficult to pass any form of legislation or advance ANC policy,” he said.

Plotting a path forward

ANC officials earlier said the party was humbled by the result and had “nothing to celebrate” but stood by Ramaphosa, once Mandela’s lead negotiator to end apartheid, and said they would not bend to pressure for him to step down.

The poor showing has fuelled speculation that Ramaphosa’s days might be numbered, either because of the demands of a prospective coalition partner, or as a result of an internal leadership challenge.

“That is a no-go area,” Fikile Mbalula, ANC’s secretary general, told a press briefing, the party’s first since the polls.

“Did we commit mistakes? Yes, we did. In governance and everywhere else,” he said, adding the ANC is now committed to forming a government “that is stable and that is able to govern effectively”.

Political parties now have two weeks to work out a deal before the new parliament sits to choose a president, who would likely still hail from the ANC, since it remains the biggest force.

Local media reported the DA could be open to entering a cooperation pact with the ANC, supporting it in key decisions in exchange for top jobs in parliament. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) would also be part of such a deal.

“I would almost certainly think [the ANC] wouldn’t just go with the DA. They would most probably go with somebody like the IFP as well just because of the perception that the DA is a very white party,” said Melanie Verwoerd, a political analyst.

The ANC’s leadership will meet on Tuesday to plot the path forward.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections results 2024-1717388721
(Al Jazeera)
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies