South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on all political forces on Sunday to “work together”, after the announcement of the official results of the legislative elections which saw the ANC, in power for thirty years, lose its absolute majority.

The African National Congress (ANC) announced in the morning discussions with other political parties to form a coalition government.

“The ANC is committed to forming a government (…) stable and capable of governing effectively,” declared its secretary general Fikile Mbalula, specifying that the party would hold discussions internally and with other parties “these next days”.

In the evening, the consolidated results were announced by the electoral commission, with the ANC obtaining only 159 seats out of 400, a severe slap compared to the 230 parliamentarians it has in the outgoing Parliament.

This result marks a historic turning point for South Africa, where the ANC has enjoyed an absolute majority since the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela, who freed the country from apartheid.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the leading opposition party, obtained 87 deputies. And the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, led by the former president prosecuted for corruption Jacob Zuma, becomes the third force in the country with 49 parliamentarians, a staggering score for a party founded only a few months ago.

President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed “free, fair, credible and peaceful” elections.

“Our people have spoken, whether we like it or not,” joked the head of state who is also the president of the ANC. “We must respect his choices.”

He recalled that South Africans “expect the parties they voted for to find common ground, to overcome their differences, to act and work together.”

The ANC remains the largest party in Parliament, which will be responsible for electing the next president in June.

The Zuma threat

The ANC must now forge alliances, either to form a coalition government or to constitute a minority government, which will have to seek allies piecemeal to pass its budget and bills.

The DA also announced “exploratory discussions” with other parties on Sunday, to “identify options” to avoid at all costs an “apocalyptic” coalition between the ANC and two parties on its radical left.

Some parties reported some irregularities in the vote count. The most vocal of them is the MK of Mr. Zuma, 82, who asked on Saturday for a postponement of this proclamation.

“If that happens, you will provoke us,” he said. “The results are not correct (…) Do not create problems where there are none,” he warned, complaining of unspecified “serious” problems.

His incarceration in July 2021 for contempt caused riots which left more than 350 dead.

The police are “ready” and there is “no room for threats of instability”, warned the Minister of Police. His Defense colleague clarified that the government had not been “directly” in contact with the MK, but called for “calm” and respect for the law.

The electoral commission said it would examine all cases presented to it, and reported 24 cases of recounts.

The MK boycotted the ceremony on Sunday evening, with its spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela telling AFP that their “presence would amount to approving” this “illegal” proclamation of the results.

Hundreds of supporters of the MK, mainly established in Zulu country, celebrated their “victory” on Sunday, aboard a festive convoy around Kwaximba, a former stronghold of the ANC near Durban.

The United States expressed no concern about the results, with State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller simply posting on social media a message of congratulations to the South Africans who “serve as standard bearers for the democracy across Africa and the world.

The ANC could form a coalition on its right, with the DA, which would reassure the business world in particular, or on its radical left, with Zuma's MK or Julius Malema's EFF, two former figures of the ANC having seceded.

The MK has made it known that it will not discuss with the ANC as long as Cyril Ramaphosa remains at its head. But Mr. Mbalula brushed aside this demand: “No party will dictate such terms to us.”

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