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South African president says Parliament will open July 18 amid discord in the new coalition

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Friday that Parliament will open for its next term on July 18 as he remains locked in negotiations with other parties to form a Cabinet well before then amid rifts in the new governing coalition.

The talks to seal the final details of a multi-party government and appoint a Cabinet have been going on for two weeks and have been marked by disagreements between Ramaphosa’s African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance, the second biggest party, over how to divide up ministerial positions and portfolios.

Correspondence between the two former political foes has been leaked, showing the tensions.

In one of the letters, Ramaphosa wrote to DA leader John Steenhuisen accusing his party of “moving the goalposts” by increasing its demand from six Cabinet positions to eight, and thereby jeopardizing the coalition agreement. The DA says the ANC had reneged on a promise to allow it to take control of the important Department of Trade and Industry.

Ramaphosa and Steenhuisen have also had face-to-face meetings in recent days.

The issues underline the warnings from analysts that a coalition bringing the ANC and DA together to govern Africa’s most industrialized country would be complicated. The ANC had been the ruling party and the DA the main opposition and its fiercest critic for more than 20 years before the May 29 election that created an unprecedented situation for South African politics. They have starkly different ideologies.

The ANC lost its dominance and the parliamentary majority it had held ever since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule in 1994 in last month’s election and has been forced to share power for the first time. It won 40% of the vote and the DA 21%.

Although eight smaller parties have also joined the coalition, which is being called a government of national unity, the ANC and the DA are the key players and its success relies on them finding common ground.

South African media has reported that the DA may be on the verge of walking away from the power-sharing agreement, but ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula — one of his party’s lead negotiators — moved to dispel that Friday by writing on social media site X that the parties were “almost done” with the final agreement. “It will be done as promised,” he added, and would be “in the best interests of all South Africans.”

South Africa’s currency and investor confidence strengthened after the ANC and DA signed a preliminary agreement to work together in a coalition on June 14. That deal also allowed Ramaphosa to be reelected by lawmakers for a second term as president just hours later with cross-party support.

Both parties had said the coalition would be a new era of political unity that would help solve the country’s vast socioeconomic problems, which include some of the highest rates of inequality and unemployment in the world. But the delay in announcing a Cabinet and a new government getting to work has eroded some of the optimism.

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