To better prove to the populace and to the international world that a positive wind of change is blowing across the continent, and that it has attained a level of fairness in conducting elections, which is a democratic process, independent electoral institutions have been able to invite neutral organisations or observer groups to help in their quest for political change and democracy. In a country like the Republic of South Africa, both national and international observers were present or deployed all over the nine provinces to monitor the May 8 National and Provincial elections, the sixth since the apartheid period culminated in 1994. Observers from the African Union led by former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Observers from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and a group of international observers AFRIC i.e. the Association for free research and international cooperation marked present in South Africa on Election Day.
About 46 political parties took part in the elections. However, it was heavily contested by Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, Julius Malema of the EFF, and the Democratic Alliance candidate Mmusi Maimane. 22 924 voting stations were opened all over South Africa for electors to choose their political leaders.
AFRIC observation Missions on the continent
Association for Free Research and International cooperation (AFRIC) in recent times has been present in Africa to contribute its own quota to the growth of the continent in all spheres. One of its objectives is election observation, which permits its experts to monitor the electoral processes of countries in Africa and beyond, ensuring maximum transparency on the part of the election organsing bodies and political leaders, as well as electors’ reactions on polling day. Like any other observer group with a defined objective, AFRIC’S desire is to work for democracy, good electoral governance, peace and security through free and transparent elections. AFRIC has so far witnessed four major elections on the continent including the following.
Prior to the May 8, 2019 National and provincial elections, the Association for Free Research and International cooperation positively reacted to the invitation from the South African government to observe the historic polls. As such, AFRIC deployed a total of 20 observers from Africa, Europe and Asia to all the nine provinces which are Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West, Mpumlanga, Free State, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. Thus, their presence in all parts of the national territory made them to come out with a precise and factual conclusion of how the voting process unfolded. Without being lopsided, the role played by AFRIC observer mission and other missions in the Republic of South Africa was highly commended by South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission. The IEC stated ‘’observers, both domestic and International play a crucial role in ensuring that the 2019 National and Provincial Elections are transparent, free and fair, and that the outcome is accepted by voters, political parties and candidates.’’
Statements from observer Groups
Maintaining neutrality, like other observer groups (AU, SADC etc.), AFRIC observers described the May 8 National and Provincial elections in South Africa as largely transparent, Free and fair. Clifftin Ellis, one of AFRIC’s coordinators said “What we’ve seen so far in these elections is a process that’s highly credible.” All the observer groups applauded the IEC for the high degree of professionalism in the organization of the polls. Head of the AU observer mission former Tanzanian president Kikwete noted that South Africa’s democracy has come of age, thus, affirming that South Africa is a model of democracy in Africa.
Even though, the electoral process was highly hailed, some lapses were equally noted by these observer groups including AFRIC.
-The youthful population did not fully engage in the electoral process. Reports revealed that over 6 million South African Youths did not register to vote.
-Some polling stations didn’t open on time
-malfunctioning of the scanner in some polling stations
In spite of the above challenges, the whole election process was void of violence or major incidents that could become a cause for concern. But disgruntled political parties have vowed to challenge the election results in court, something that has been highly appraised by the observer groups. As per AU observer head, challenging elections through a legal way shows a high level of maturity. About 26 million South Africans cast their ballots on Election Day.
The Political party that emerges victorious and occupies the largest seats in the country’s 400 member National Assembly, will intend elect a new president that will head the Southern African Nation for the next five years. The new government will have to deal with the recurrent xenophobic attacks which have tainted South Africa’s image and also tackle youth unemployment, among other things.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress has been at the helm of the Republic of South Africa’s Presidency with Nelson Mandela as its first president. However, the party has witnessed a sharp drop in recent times due to the corruption scandal that rocked former president Jacob Zuma. This caused his abrupt resignation in 2018. Many thus see the 2019 polls as a test for the ruling party.