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South Africa opposition coalition talks fail after vote

South Africa’s opposition parties said Wednesday they would not form coalition governments in key cities but vowed to unite to block the ruling ANC from taking majority control following fiercely-contested municipal elections.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party of Nelson Mandela earlier this month saw its worst poll results since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, losing its majority in the largest metropolitan areas.

After days of post-election talks, the liberal centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) and the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) vowed to prevent the ruling ANC from taking control of the capital Pretoria and business hub Johannesburg.

“We will not be going into a coalition with anyone,” EFF populist leader Julius Malema told a news conference, adding that his party however would support the DA.

“We will vote for the opposition because the ANC must be removed from power. And this is the start.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane told a news conference that “we don’t have a coalition agreement with the EFF.”

“It is quite clear that we would never agree on ideological issues,” with the EFF “because there are many positions that are so vastly different for these two parties”.

But Malema said their ideological differences with the DA, which he repeatedly referred to as a “racist” party “doesn’t mean there will not be an agreement on matters of national importance.”

The DA topped the August 3 vote in municipal elections in the capital Pretoria, taking 93 of 214 council seats to the ANC’s 89.

And with 25 seats, the EFF found itself in the powerful position of kingmaker in the municipality.

The DA also announced that it had gone into coalition too with several small parties – a deal that would hand it an outright majority in the Nelson Mandela Bay council, a coastal municipality south of the country.

Of the country’s six most populous cities, the ANC won an outright majority in only one: Durban, Zuma’s traditional stronghold.

Coalition talks between the two parties also failed in economic hub Johannesburg, where the ANC missed out on an outright majority with 45 percent of the vote.

– ‘Wide and divergent differences’ –

“We mutually decided that it would be problematic to try and govern together because of some fairly wide and divergent differences on fundamental policies,” said DA chairman James Selfe.

“But we do share a common understanding that we do want to achieve some of the same objectives and while we do that I am sure that we can work together.”

But EFF leader Malema, who was expelled from the ANC for ill-discipline in 2012, said that his party would back the DA with its votes in both cities, calling it “the better devil compared to the ANC”.

“We’ll vote for them and be in the opposition benches. The ANC will not get a single vote from the EFF.”

“We are not co-governing… we are going to vote for the opposition because the ANC must be removed from power and this is the start of removing the ANC from power.”

The municipal elections were largely seen as a referendum on President Jacob Zuma, whose rule of Africa’s largest economy has been dogged by scandal.

During talks with the ANC, the EFF had insisted on Zuma’s removal as one of several pre-conditions for supporting the ruling party, but “they said it was a no-no,” said Malema.

“The ANC is a corrupt organisation which subscribes to the kleptocracy.”

The ruling party suffered its worst result since the end of white-minority rule 22 years ago, garnering less than 54 percent of ballots cast nationally — an eight percentage point drop from the last local poll in 2011.