December 5, 2001

SOUTH AFRICA: New Premier of Western Cape

Peter Marais, a member of South Africa's apartheid-era New National Party was sworn in on December 5 as Premier of the Western Cape province in a power-sharing deal with the ruling African National Congress.

The new premier, the former mayor of Cape Town, immediately announced a new provincial cabinet in which the ANC and the NNP has equal representation with six members each, giving them joint control of the province. The move follows a deal between the two parties reached on November 27, which will see the former arch-foes work together on provincial and national levels, with the NNP expected to get seats in President Thabo Mbeki's cabinet. At the local level, they will be forced to govern on a consensus basis as Marais will not have a decisive vote in his cabinet and any deadlocks will be referred to the national leadership of the NNP and ANC.

The deal has seen the end of the NNP's 16-month participation in the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which was triggered by a row over Marais himself, when the DA expelled him and he resigned as city mayor. The NNP and the DA jointly ruled the Western Cape until last month but the announcement of the new cabinet relegated the DA to the opposition benches in the province. The new partnership has for first time put the ANC in power in the Western Cape, the only one of the country's nine provinces it has failed to rule since the advent of democracy in 1994.

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