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Ramaphosa Faces Challenges In Forming Cabinet Amid Coalition Tensions

SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Friday that parliament will commence its next term on July 18. This comes as he remains engaged in intensive negotiations with other political parties to finalise a cabinet well before the opening, amid significant rifts in the new governing coalition.

For the past two weeks, Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the second-largest party, have been locked in talks to finalise the details of a multi-party government and appoint a cabinet. These discussions have been fraught with disagreements over the division of ministerial positions and portfolios.


Leaked correspondence between the ANC and the DA has revealed the depth of these tensions, The Associated Press (AP) reported. In one letter, Ramaphosa accused DA leader John Steenhuisen of ‘moving the goalposts’ by increasing the DA’s demand from six Cabinet positions to eight, thus jeopardising the coalition agreement. The DA, in turn, claimed that the ANC had reneged on a promise to allow it to control the crucial Department of Trade and Industry.

Recent face-to-face meetings between Ramaphosa and Steenhuisen highlight the challenges analysts have warned about regarding a coalition government uniting the ANC and DA. Historically, the ANC has been the ruling party, while the DA has been its main opposition and fiercest critic. Their vastly different ideologies further complicate the coalition dynamics.

The ANC lost its dominance and parliamentary majority for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, following the May 29 election. The ANC secured 40 percent of the vote, while the DA garnered 21 percent. Despite eight smaller parties joining the coalition, now termed a government of national unity, the success of this coalition heavily depends on the ANC and DA finding common ground.

South African media speculated that the DA might abandon the power-sharing agreement. However, ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula, a lead negotiator, dispelled these rumours on social media site X, stating that the parties were ‘almost done’ with the final agreement and that it would be ‘in the best interests of all South Africans.’

Investor confidence and South Africa’s currency saw a boost following the preliminary agreement between the ANC and DA on June 14, which also facilitated Ramaphosa’s re-election for a second term as president with cross-party support. Both parties had promoted the coalition as a new era of political unity aimed at addressing South Africa’s significant socioeconomic issues, including high rates of inequality and unemployment. However, the delay in announcing a Cabinet and getting the new government operational has started to erode some of that initial optimism.

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