JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African parties are close to reaching a deal on who gets which cabinet posts, local media reported on Sunday, the last hurdle to setting up a government after the ruling party lost its majority in an election for the first time in three decades.

The Sunday Times and City Press both reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) were broadly in agreement with the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), after the latter backed down on a demand to take the trade and industry portfolio.

“We are cautiously optimistic that there could be an agreement before the end of the weekend,” the Sunday Times quoted senior DA politician Helen Zille as saying.

Both newspapers expected Ramaphosa to announce the cabinet later on Sunday. Spokespeople for both parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ex-liberation movement that ended apartheid 30 years ago was forced to join forces with the DA and other parties in a government of national unity, after getting fewer than half the votes for the first time in an election on May 29.

Voters furious at the ANC’s poor record on delivering basic services including water, schools and electricity, as well as widespread unemployment, poverty and corruption, deserted Nelson Mandela’s legacy party, leaving it with just 40% of the vote.

Even if agreement is reached on the cabinet, the ideological differences between the ANC and DA could hinder policymaking down the road, analysts say.

The DA wants to scrap some of the ANC’s Black empowerment programmes, saying that they have mostly made a politically-connected business elite fabulously wealthy while much of the Black majority stays poor.

It opposes the ANC’s desire to expropriate land – most of which is in white hands as a legacy of conquest by colonists and subsequent entrenched white minority rule – without compensation and give it to Black farmers.

The DA also seeks to phrase out South Africa’s minimum wage, currently sitting at 27.58 rand ($1.52) a hour, arguing it makes the workforce uncompetitive.

($1 = 18.1850 rand)

(Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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