South Africa’s New Government Takes Shape as Coalition Cabinet is Finalized

After weeks of negotiation, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a new Cabinet late Sunday night, following an agreement between his African National Congress and nine other parties to form a coalition government.

The ANC, despite losing its 30-year dominance in the recent election, secured the largest share of ministerial positions, with 20 of the 32 Cabinet minister roles going to ANC officials. The Democratic Alliance, previously the main opposition, received six ministerial posts, while the remaining positions were distributed among smaller parties.

The ANC’s loss of its parliamentary majority in the May 29th election, where it garnered only 40% of the vote, forced the party to seek coalition partners. The DA, with 21% of the vote, secured the second-largest share.

This coalition government, dubbed a “government of national unity,” is open to participation by any of the 18 parties represented in Parliament, though some have declined. This power-sharing arrangement is unprecedented in South Africa, with the only previous instance being a brief coalition under different circumstances at the end of apartheid.

The ANC’s need for support from the DA and other parties was crucial in reelecting Ramaphosa for a second term. The ANC’s decline in popularity stemmed from public frustration over poverty, inequality, and unemployment, issues that Ramaphosa highlighted as priorities for the coalition government.

Despite the presence of 11 parties in the coalition, the ANC and DA remain the key players. Negotiations between the two parties were tense and protracted, with the DA reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the power-sharing agreement before a meeting between Ramaphosa and DA leader John Steenhuisen on Friday.

“We have shown that there are no problems that are too difficult or too intractable that they cannot be solved through dialogue,” Ramaphosa stated, acknowledging the complexity of the negotiations.

Among Ramaphosa’s most significant Cabinet appointments, Paul Mashatile of the ANC was reappointed as his deputy president. Parks Tau of the ANC was appointed as the minister of trade and industry, a critical portfolio that the DA sought and was a source of tension between the two parties. Steenhuisen was appointed as the minister of agriculture, while Ramaphosa also included the leaders of four other parties in his Cabinet as new ministers.

“We have had to ensure that all the parties are able to participate meaningfully in the national executive,” Ramaphosa emphasized.