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Election season in full swing in South Africa, a new dawn for the ruling party?

23.01.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
South African political parties are in full electioneering mood as the country heads towards a general election in April this year. But the party once led by former president Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC) finds itself in a precarious position as several number of its leaders have been implicated in the State Capture Commission of Inquiry set up by former president Jacob Zuma to look at the corruption that has plagued South Africa for many years after the attainment of democracy.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa was inaugurated as president of South Africa last year, he insisted that the country will be taking a new path, completely different from the previous regime. He had promised to campaign to the international community for foreign direct investment into the country, to stop the scourge of corruption and to rebuild institutions that hold democratic process accountable.

THE HISTORY OF THE ANC

The ANC has been South Africa’s ruling part since transition into the new dispensation ushered in after the first democratic elections in 1994. When the organisation was founded back n 1912 it was known as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) that was fundamentally set up to fight for the rights of black South African under the Apartheid regime, but it was later renamed the ANC in 1923.

After many years fighting the then government peacefully, following intensive consultation with the South African Communist Party (SACP) the ANC formed a military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation/MK) in 1961. Through the MK, the ANC effectively waged an armed struggled and received support from some African countries where these MK soldiers would be based and trained but also received support from the Soviet bloc for its activities.

With the increasing internal dissent, international pressure and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the apartheid government was forced to enter into negotiations with the ANC and ultimately saw the collapse of the oppressive Apartheid government and ushered in democratic rule in 1994.

ELECTIONS AND THE DWINDLING SUPPORT

It was expected when the country held its first democratic election that the ANC would emerge victorious, with an overwhelming majority. In the national elections from 1994-2004, the ANC had consistently risen not only in electoral support but in popularity as well. This was known as the main political party, with the assistance of other formations, that had been able to pull the masses out of the jaws of Apartheid effectively becoming a liberation movement in South Africa.

But the part began showing serious cracks as the liberation movement aged. In the 2009 general election, the ANC suffered a drop in popularity and this became a trend that was also witnessed again in 2014. This period also coincided with the presidency of Jacob Zuma.

With an effective 10 years at the helm of the ANC and nine as head of government Zuma has been central to the decline in support for the ANC. When he was elected in 2007, the party dealt a fatal blow to the country’s crime-fighting unit, the Scorpions that had been pursing him for 783 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering. He proceeded to appoint person’s with questionable integrities to some of the most salient institutions such as the South African Revenue Services (SARS), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), treasury and many others.

But will the ANC under Ramaphosa be able to win the trust of majority of South African’s again in this year’s contest?

THE MAIN CONTENDERS

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition seemingly started on a false note after launching a billboard with the names of the Marikana massacre victims, the Life Esidimeni tragedy and name of children that dies after falling into pit toilets. The move was frowned upon by the ANC and received mixed reaction from both social media and the entire community.  The DA is yet to launch its manifesto for the election but one of the key issues that the party has been punting is the controversial issue of undocumented migrants in South Africa. The party has already started calling for tighter controls of the borders.

The DA boosts 89 seats in the national legislature, 22.23% of the 400-member constituted parliament. This is an increase from the 2009 elections where they had a paltry 67 seats. The party is eying to win the economic hub of South Africa, Gauteng Province and has vowed to bring in a number of significant changes should it come out victorious in this year’s general election.

There is also the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) under the leadership of former ANC member Julius Malema. The EFF, founded much later than others in 2013 is a far-left political party that takes inspiration from the like of Thomas Sankara both in terms of ideology and leadership style. One of the key issues that the party was even able to influence the ANC in parliament with was the policy on expropriation of land without compensation. The EFF had little time to prepare for the 2014 general election and received an impressive 25 seats from the 13 political parties represented in parliament, all of whom will be contesting elections this year.

It sure does promise to be an election that most South Africans but Africans in general would be watching closely. There is a high possibility that there won’t be outright winners in the provinces and parties would then have to sit down and talk about coalition governments. Apart from that, the ruling ANC would want to prove that it still has an inkling that it can lead the second best economy in the continent and cater to the needs of a younger generation, majority of whom are youth and young adults.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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