/ 2 June 2024

IEC confirms election results as talks about talks get underway

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Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) Mosotho Moepya delivers his remarks during the official announcement of the South African general election results at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) National Results Operation Centre at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, on June 2, 2024. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has confirmed the results of the national and provincial elections despite threats of “trouble” from Jacob Zuma, with the two largest parties – the ANC and the Democratic Alliance – opening the door to coalitions with each other.

IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya said on Sunday that after “carefully” considering the extent measures of Section 57 of the Electoral Act put in place, he was satisfied to declare the results of the elections, whose credibility had been questioned by the Umkhonto we Sizwe party and 25 others.

They had written to the IEC threatening court action should the declaration of the results go ahead, with Zuma upping the ante with his warning that doing so was a “provocation,” but the official ceremony went ahead as planned on Sunday evening.

Hours before Moepya declared the result at the Results Operations Centre (ROC) at Gallagher Estate, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula and DA leader John Steenhuisen announced that their doors were open for negotiations.

Mbalula told the media that they were “talking to everybody” and that their choices would have to be guided by more than ideological considerations, while Steenhuisen said in an announcement that they would work with any party that was committed to South Africa’s constitution.

Delivering his address on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on political parties to work together as they head towards the next administration, adding that the elections represented the will of the voters.

“[The people] expect the parties for which they have voted to find common ground, to overcome their differences, to act and work together for the good of everyone,” he said.

“However, all the parties share an overarching mandate, to work in partnership with each other and with society more broadly, to build a country that is inclusive, united and prosperous.”

“Our people have spoken, whether we like it or not,” Ramaphosa said.

On Saturday night, the MK party and 25 others made a collective demand that the results be delayed until their complaints had been dealt with, and called for a recount.

Zuma took things a step further with a warning that there would be “trouble” if the declaration went ahead before they were “satisfied”, but provided no evidence to back up his claims.

Zuma said declaring a result which deprived his party of a two thirds majority before their “serious” allegations were addressed was a “provocation” and accused the IEC of “funny tricks” in the counting and collation process.

Earlier on Sunday, ministers from the security cluster held a media briefing at which they said that any attempt to disrupt the announcement or any subsequent acts of violence would be dealt with by the security forces.

Police minister Bheki Cele said law enforcement would be visible to ensure order.

“If you call a war against the nation, we will act on that,” Cele said. “We all have rights in South Africa, but once you cross the line, law enforcement will be there.”

Cele said that the law outlined mechanisms through which parties could raise disputes and that “there cannot be any room for threats of instability in order to register objections or concerns about the electoral process.”

“The law enforcement agencies stand ready to maintain peace and stability as they have done throughout the elections period. Any attempt to undermine the authority of the state and South Africa’s constitutional order will be dealt with accordingly,” Cele said.

Coalition doors are open

With the results out and the lay of the land clear, both the ANC and the DA on Sunday made it clear that their doors were not closed to each other – or other parties.

Mbalula said they were “talking to everybody” and that they had a mandate to listen to every “party of substance” in the course of the next few days.

Significantly, Mbalula said that if circumstances dictated, coalition negotiations would be conducted on a principled, rather than an ideological basis.

The ANC would not accept any proposal which placed removing Ramaphosa as a precondition, saying this was a “no-go area” and that parties wanting to negotiate with that precondition should “forget” it.

Mbalula said the ANC negotiating team would report to its national working committee ahead of a meeting of the national executive committee on Tuesday.

An hour before the results were announced, Steenhuisen released a recorded address in which he suggested to DA voters that the party could enter into a coalition with the ANC to “keep the MK party out of government”. 

Steenhuisen said the DA federal executive had met and agreed to “initiate exploratory talks with other political parties that share a commitment to the South African Constitution.”

The DA had spearheaded the opposition pre-election coalition – the Multi-Party Charter of South Africa – which now appears to be effectively dead, with its members now negotiating as individual entities. 

The DA’s negotiating team, which included federal chairperson Helen Zille, chief whip Siviwe Gwarube and former leader Tony Leon, would “identify options for the formation of governments at national and provincial level where no party has obtained an outright majority”.

Other members of the team are Western Cape premier Alan Winde, and former DA spin doctor and chief strategist Ryan Coetzee, who became Zille’s special advisor but later left to work for Britain’s Liberal Democrats.

There is a strong lobby in the ANC which had been advocating a coalition with the EFF, but there is another that includes Ramaphosa and Mbalula and favours the formation of a government of national unity.

This would see the ANC calling other parties to participate – including the IFP and now possibly the EFF – along with the DA.

A well-placed source confirmed on Sunday that there was deep-seated resistance within the ANC ranks to an alliance with the DA, for multiple reasons. 

“There is self-interest driving a preference for the EFF and MK party as well as political, cultural alignment,” said the source. 

As for the DA, members remained torn about the extent to which the party could cooperate with the ANC without losing its ideological – and opposition – identity.

Some favour a structured agreement where the DA would stay out of government but take key positions in parliament and demand concessions on key pieces of legislation.

Here, they have already indicated to the ANC that this would include the National Health Insurance Bill and the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill.

Steenhusein said that while the party had done their best to ensure a victory of the Multi-Party Charter, they had not succeeded, and that they now had to find other partners to provide a stable government and keep the ANC out of a coalition with EFF and now MK.

Since then the MK party had appeared on the scene and had shown itself to be a “threat” to South Africa.

“We urge all others who love our constitution and all it represents, to set aside narrow sectarian interests and join hands to act in the interests of the country that we all love,” Steenhuisen said.

He reiterated that a coalition between the ANC, the MK party and the EFF would be a “doomsday” scenario.

“All throughout the election campaign, the DA undertook to rescue South Africa from the doomsday coalition. We will now do our level best to do exactly that,” Steenhuisen said.

It suggests the DA would not be amenable to a national unity government into which the ANC sought to include Julius Malema’s party.

ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont, in a statement, said the party would act as an “unofficial opposition in parliament” as it was not  interested in getting into an agreement with the ANC.

“It is, however, unlikely that ActionSA will depart from its commitment to the South African people to not take the votes we received from South Africans seeking change only to give them to the very party that has created the crisis from which we need change 30 years into our democracy,” Beaumont said on Sunday.