Home South Africa South Africa’s ANC Proposes a National Unity Government: What Does It Mean?

South Africa’s ANC Proposes a National Unity Government: What Does It Mean?


South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has announced its intention to form a national unity government with major opposition parties following its loss of a parliamentary majority in last week’s general elections. This marks the first time the ANC has lost its majority since the country’s first post-apartheid elections 30 years ago.

President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled the plan on Thursday, after extensive negotiations within the ANC and with major political parties. There had been speculation about whether the ANC would seek a grand coalition with its closest rival, the Democratic Alliance, or attempt to align with the uMKhonto we Sizwe of former President Jacob Zuma, whose election gains came at the expense of the ANC.

Analysts told Al Jazeera that forming a coalition with a single rival party could make the ANC too dependent on that party. Opting for a broad, multiparty coalition helps mitigate this risk.

The ANC has a constitutional deadline of June 18 to finalize the details of the national unity government.

But what exactly is a national unity government, and how might it function in South Africa?

What is a National Unity Government?

A national unity government aims to include a broad spectrum of major political parties within the legislature, even those that are staunch rivals. In South Africa’s case, this joint government would involve different parties controlling various ministerial portfolios.

Such governments are often formed during national emergencies like wars or economic crises, when a unified approach is necessary. They can also arise in deeply divided countries where no single party or candidate has a clear mandate, as is currently the case in South Africa.

One key characteristic of a national unity government is that it leaves parliament with a very small opposition.