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S. Africa unity govt to retain policy course

Country will work closely with China as exchanges likely to intensify, experts say

By NDUMISO MLILO in Johannesburg, South Africa | CHINA DAILY/XINHUA | Updated: 2024-06-17 07:01

African National Congress lawmakers react after Cyril Ramaphosa (center) was reelected president of South Africa on Friday. AP

The new coalition government in South Africa will not result in a big policy shift in the domestic field or relations with China, and South Africa-China collaboration and exchanges are likely to intensify, experts say.

South Africa announced the formation of a coalition government on Friday, South Africa's first in 30 years, which came two weeks after elections that resulted in no outright winning party.

The African National Congress, which had the highest number of votes, formed a government with the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the National Freedom Party and the Patriotic Alliance.

Cyril Ramaphosa was chosen as the country's president on Friday. Congratulatory messages continued to pour in for the leader.

Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, a member of the ANC, was elected chairwoman of the National Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament, on Saturday.

The ANC said it was "ready to set aside our political differences, find innovative ways to work together in the interest of our nation".

On Friday, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo opened the parliament's first sitting, swearing in MPs and presiding over the election of the speaker, who is from the ANC, and a deputy speaker, a member of the Democratic Alliance.

Mikatekiso Kubayi, a researcher with the think tank Institute for Global Dialogue, associated with the University of South Africa, said he expects the ANC to retain the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation for continuity and policy consistency.

"I am optimistic about what this coalition government will deliver. I don't see the foreign policy changing at all. I see a zero policy shift toward China. I don't see any parties interfering with China-South African relations (that benefit) both countries."

The governing parties have committed to improving governance, delivering services, tackling challenges the country faces and helping the economy grow.

Kubayi said both the Democratic Alliance and the ANC, the two major parties in the government, agree that they have to get the economy to grow, create jobs and promote infrastructure.

China-South Africa cooperation should continue and broaden in areas such as green hydrogen and infrastructural development, he said.

In the domestic field, there will be no policy changes, and it is expected that the government will perform better because both parties have something to prove to the people of South Africa, Kubayi said.

"The foreign policy won't change, but South Africa will consolidate its membership of the multilateral forums. They are not going to compromise anything but have continuity and consistency. They will maintain South Africa-China relations."

There would be disagreements on a few policy issues, he said, but little contestation, and there would be no shift in the country's BRICS membership.

Rule of law

John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance, in a previous speech, had told party supporters that it will co-govern in a spirit of unity and collaboration, adhering to the constitution and the rule of law.

Alan Mukoki, chief executive of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it expects the government to give priority to meritocracy in allocating cabinet posts.

There is an expectation that the governing parties will work together to create an environment for economic growth and create jobs, Mukoki said. Among many challenges facing the new government are a sluggish economy and high unemployment.

Ramaphosa will be sworn in on Wednesday, and is expected to announce the composition of the Cabinet. The spirit of the new government has already been seen in the national assembly and many provincial legislatures.

In 1994 the first independent president, Nelson Mandela, appointed one of his deputies from the National Party and the home affairs minister from the opposition.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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