South Africa

South Africa has emerged as a major power on the continent since the end of white minority rule in 1994. Its size, relative stability and the moral authority won through the long anti-apartheid struggle give it unusual weight in African and international diplomacy. Nonetheless, the ruling African National Congress has lost some of its lustre after a decade of economic mismanagement and corruption that has eroded much of the state’s infrastructure. The country has lately experienced severe unrest due largely to persistent crime, joblessness and inequality exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdowns. Through reporting and analysis, Crisis Group tracks indicators of social conflict in the country, advocating for economic reform, while pushing Pretoria to assume a bigger role on the regional stage.

CrisisWatch South Africa

Unchanged Situation

Ruling African National Congress (ANC) lost parliamentary majority in landmark election but formed unity govt; largest opposition party challenged results in court. 

President Ramaphosa re-elected to lead broad coalition. Electoral commission 2 June announced results of 29 May general election as incumbent ANC lost parliamentary majority for first time since democratic transition in 1994, securing 40% of vote and 159 out of 400 parliamentary seats, down from 57.5% and 230 in 2019; centrist-right Democratic Alliance came second (22%, 87 seats) followed by new uMkhonto weSizwe party (MKP) led by former President Zuma (14.5%, 58 seats). Electoral authorities declared polls “free and fair”, dismissing allegations of widespread irregularities lodged by MKP. ANC 14 June signed statement of intent with Democratic Alliance and Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party to form govt of national unity, ensuring that new parliament 15 June re-elected Ramaphosa as president. ANC 17 June invited all parties to participate in coalition and ten (including ANC) agreed to join, giving unity govt 287 seats in parliament. MKP and populist Economic Freedom Fighters declined, choosing to form “progressive” opposition caucus in parliament instead. After fraught negotiations between ANC and Democratic Alliance over number of cabinet posts for each party, Ramaphosa 30 June announced 32-member multi-party cabinet comprising 20 ANC ministers, six from Democratic Alliance and rest from several small parties. 

Opposition party led by former president alleged election rigging. MKP leader Zuma 2 June rejected results and demanded election re-run as he claimed polls suffered from serious irregularities. Party 16 June launched legal challenges seeking to declare election invalid without providing evidence of malfeasance; MPs from MKP stayed away from 14-15 June first sitting of parliament and Ramaphosa’s 19 June inauguration but were sworn in 25 June.  

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