South Africa's ANC calls demands for President Ramaphosa to step down for coalition talks a 'no-go'


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South Africa's ANC Stands Firm on Leadership as Coalition Negotiations Begin After Historic Election Result

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, briefs the media on results of the elections at the Results Operation Centre in Midland, Johannesburg, Sunday June 2, 2024. Mbalula said South Africa’s African National Congress party will not consider any demands from possible coalition partners that President Cyril Ramaphosa step down as a condition for negotiations. (AP Photo)

Cape Town: South Africa's African National Congress party will not consider any demands from possible coalition partners that President Cyril Ramaphosa step down, a top official said Sunday, as the ANC attempted to present a united front after a stinging election result ended its 30-year majority.

As South Africa heads for a series of complex talks to form a national coalition government for the first time and establish stability, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula said Ramaphosa would remain as party leader and any demands from others that he resign for talks to go ahead was "a no-go" area.

President Ramaphosa is the president of the ANC, Mbalula said in the ANC leadership's first public comments since the landmark election results. And if you come to us with that demand that Ramaphosa is going to step down as the president, that is not going to happen.

Mbalula said the ANC was open to talks with every other political party in an effort to form a government, but no political party will dictate terms to us, the ANC. They will not...You come to us with that demand, forget (it).

Mbalula conceded the ANC, which has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid in 1994, suffered heavily, in the election but said it was not booted out.

The ANC received just over 40% of votes, falling well short of the majority it has held for all of South Africa's young democracy. It will still be the biggest party by some way. But it needs to talk with others to form a government and to reelect Ramaphosa for a second and final term. South Africa's president is elected by Parliament after national elections.

"The results send a clear message to the ANC," Mbalula said. "We wish to send a message to the people of South Africa: We have heard them." He said the ANC was committed to forming a government that reflects the will of the people and is stable.

The new MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma, which won 14% in the election in a surprise showing that makes it the third biggest in parliament, has said Ramaphosa must go as leader of the ANC and the country for it to enter any coalition talks with the ANC.

The ANC has many options for coalition partners among South Africa's other parties, including one with the main opposition Democratic Alliance, which won 21% of votes.

"We'll talk to everybody," Mbalula said. "We are talking to everybody because the election did not give us outright majority. Talks about talks are in full swing. We are engaged and we are open to engagement. We need stability in this country."