South Africa: General elections full of dangers for the ANC

South Africa: General elections full of dangers for the ANC

The ruling party could lose the absolute majority it has held since the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

The African National Congress (ANC), the anti-apartheid movement dear to Nelson Mandela, is on the ropes in South Africa. According to opinion polls, the party risks losing this May 29 during the general elections the majority it has held since 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of the South African Republic. The latest polls credit him with 40 and 47% of voting intentions. If these polls are confirmed, the party would have to deal with another political party to win a majority in Parliament.

South Africa: opposition forms coalition to oust ANC

This Wednesday, some 27.6 million voters are called to choose 400 deputies, who will then elect the president of the republic. Around fifty parties are in the running.

A slap in the face for the ANC

For months, the little music of defeat has been swelling with power outages, corruption cases and an unemployment rate that successive ANC governments have failed to stem.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the outgoing president seeking a second term, was unable to deliver on his election promises. Economic recovery is long overdue. The corruption that he had promised to tackle when succeeding Jacob Zuma, pushed out in 2018 after a series of explosive cases, is still present, unemployment is reaching record levels. Fifteen days before the elections, it had jumped again by almost 1 point to reach 32.9%, one of the highest rates in the world. Even more worrying, unemployment among 15-24 year olds is close to 60%.

The rainbow nation dreamed of by Mandela is still marked by racial tensions, class inequalities have continued to widen, the country holds the title of the most unequal nation in the world. The gap between the richest and the most disadvantaged has even widened since the end of apartheid, according to the Global Inequalities Laboratory. The violence has gotten even worse. In 2023, the country recorded 27,500 murders, a third more than in 2019.

A former trade unionist, favorite of Nelson Mandela, having made his fortune in business, Cyril Ramaphosa is often mocked for his lack of charisma. During his last campaign meeting, he landed in Soweto, the largest township of the country, one of these poor neighborhoods formerly reserved for non-whites, a stone's throw from Johannesburg. He organized this meeting in the street where Nelson Mandela lived before his incarceration in 1964. Cyril Ramaphosa recalled the main dates of the ANC's fight. He just sketched the news. He knows his record is poor. So he just says “ We want to move this country forward. We want to respond to unemployment. We want our young people to have jobs. »

Thirty years ago, the release of Mandela marked the “death” of apartheid

For its part, the South African government affirms that there has been significant progress during the last legislature, that a greater proportion of South Africans live in decent housing, that access to basic services is improving. is improved. Unquantified data which seems to impact on the feelings of an increasingly large proportion of the population tired of these words and of evils. An apparent weariness with regard to the ANC which is palpable in all layers of society and which should deprive the party of its absolute majority.

The AD struggles to convince

Despite this palpable disenchantment with the ruling party, the Democratic Alliance (AD), its first opponent, does not seem able to really bridge the gap that separates the two parties. The Democratic Alliance has, however, demonstrated its ability to properly manage the entities it governs at the local level such as the province of Western Cape and that of the city of Cape Town, but it fails to convince a majority of voters in the community black, which represents 81% of the population. The political party is often perceived as a white party in a country where racial issues remain central. “ The ANC knows it and is playing with it”explained recently John Steenhuisen, the leader of the AD, a party born from white opposition to apartheid.

Today, the AD is banking on young people who are less emotionally tied to the ANC, regularly hammering John Steenhuisen. But the party is struggling to gain percentages in the polls. It is still running between 20 and 25% despite the collapse of the ANC.

Is an ANC-AD majority possible? The party president does not exclude it to avoid what he presents as “the coalition of the apocalypse”.

The weight of ANC dissidents

A coalition of the apocalypse synonymous with an alliance between the ANC and the EFF, the Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left and anti-white party led by the former president of the ANC youth league, expelled in 2012, Julius Malema. His party is credited with 10% in the polls, enough to make it a significant boost for his former friends. Malema seems to have understood this well, he has cleaned up his image. Swapping the red beret and matching t-shirt for a very presentable suit and tie. But his program scares economists. Malema promises radical reforms such as land redistribution and nationalization of key economic sectors.

But the “new” dissident who scares the ANC is Jacob Zuma and his party called Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), created less than a year ago and which could attract up to 14% of voters. . The former South African president (2009-2018), 82 years old, was finally declared ineligible a few days before the election due to a prison sentence in 2021. His photo will, however, appear on the already printed ballot papers.

South Africa: pushed by his party towards the exit, Zuma still resists

Abstention of young people

The South African electoral commission has stepped up initiatives to tackle the abstention which continues to grow in the country where 14 million young people were not registered six months before the election.

South Africa: President Ramaphosa in trouble

Voter turnout figures have been declining since the first democratic election in 1994, when turnout was 84%. In 2019, only 49% of people of voting age did so. Young people, in particular, abstained en masse, a scenario that is likely to recur and intensify this time.