South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said that his African National Congress (ANC) would seek to form a government of national unity with a broad group of opposition parties.

“The purpose of the government of national unity must be, first and foremost, to tackle the pressing issues that South Africans want to be addressed,” Ramaphosa said late on Thursday after a marathon ANC meeting.

“These issues include job creation and the growth of our economy that will be inclusive, the high cost of living, service delivery, crime and corruption,” he said.

In last week’s general election, the ANC won just over 40% of the vote and 159 seats in South Africa’s National Assembly, falling short of an outright majority for the first time.

As Ramaphosa acknowledged after 10 hours of intensive talks with his party’s senior members at a Johannesburg conference centre, the governing party now needs partners to form a government.

There had been speculation the party might seek to form a minority government or a coalition with one or two major parties, but in the end Ramaphosa invited all his rivals to talks.

“Such a national dialogue will enhance the pressing task of rebuilding social cohesion in a fractured society, following a particularly toxic and divisive election campaign,” he said.

Ramaphosa said ANC negotiators had already held talks with five parties: the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters, the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom party, the centre-right Democratic Alliance, the National Freedom party and the anti-immigrant Patriotic Alliance.

“All parties must commit to shared nation building and social cohesion,” he said. “These values include respect for the constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the rule of law, social justice and equity, human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism.”

This article was amended on 7 June 2024. The ANC won 159 seats, not 158 as stated in an earlier version.