What happens next in South Africa after ANC loses majority?

For the first time in South Africa’s democratic era, the African National Congress (ANC) will have to seek one or more coalition partners to govern with after it fell well short of a majority in last week’s national election.

Here are scenarios of what could happen next in South Africa and which parties the ANC might partner with:


The ANC won just 40% of votes, by far its worst result since democratic elections began in 1994 after the end of apartheid and leaving it short of a majority in parliament.

Some political analysts say this could lead to party leader and South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, having to step down, as he comes out of the election badly weakened. But ANC leaders said on Sunday, June 2, the party would not bend to pressure from other political forces to ditch him.

“That is a no-go area,” Fikile Mbalula, the party’s secretary general, told a press briefing.
Over the past four electoral cycles the ANC’s share of the vote gradually dropped, but never by more than five percentage points from one election to the next.

If Ramaphosa survives the voters’ backlash, he would carry on at least for a while to broker a coalition deal with another party in a bid to secure a parliamentary majority, though analysts say he may struggle to serve for a second full term.

Tipped as potential successors are other ANC politicians such as Deputy President Paul Mashatile or Gwede Mantashe, currently in charge of the mines and energy ministry.

In any case, the ANC needs to move quickly as the constitution says the new National Assembly must convene within 14 days of the election results being declared to elect a new president.


The ANC will likely have no choice but to seek support from one of its three largest rivals: the pro-business, white-led Democratic Alliance (DA), uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), led by former president Jacob Zuma, or the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The price of a deal with either of those would likely be significant policy concessions by the ANC, as well as the offer of some senior government or parliamentary positions for their partner.

Some analysts say that the ANC was unlikely to pick the DA as its sole coalition partner, even though its market-friendly stance would sit well with Ramaphosa.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a conservative Zulu party with a power base in KwaZulu-Natal, won nearly 4% of the vote and could prove useful in making up the numbers.

“I would almost certainly think they 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.

“It’s a perception that’s very strong, and therefore I think they would prefer to have a balance in the coalition with either the IFP or a few smaller parties as well,” she said.

An alliance with the DA would be favoured by investors, though some commentators say it is difficult to envisage a stable arrangement under this scenario, and South Africa could be facing a period of unprecedented government volatility.

The EFF, led by Julius Malema, a former leader of the ANC’s youth wing, may be a more natural fit for the ANC than the DA, but relations are tense between Malema and some ANC factions.

On 9.5% of the vote, the EFF said in April it would partner with the ANC if it got the powerful post of finance minister. The ANC has not disclosed its thinking on any non-majority scenario.


A deal with the MK, which emerged as the third biggest party with 14.6%, would also be difficult to digest for the ANC, which has struggled to clean up its reputation after the corruption scandals of the Zuma era.

“What we do know now is that the ANC is in a trilemma,” said Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, a political analyst at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Though bitter rivals, the EFF and MK, as off-shoots of the ruling party, are more ideologically aligned with the ANC, he said. A coalition with the DA, on the other hand, would require reaching across the aisle of South African politics.
“Any one of those coalitions is politically unprecedented,” he said.

Complicating the situation for the ANC, the MK has repeatedly said it would not enter any coalition government if Ramaphosa stays on, and has threatened to challenge the electoral results in court despite faring better than expected.

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