ANC faces worst poll losses since apartheid

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

PRE­TO­RIA — South Africa’s ANC was on track for its worst elec­toral per­for­mance since the end of apartheid yes­ter­day as vot­ers vented anger about high un­em­ploy­ment and cor­rup­tion in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions that her­ald a sea change in politics and so­ci­ety.

The African Na­tional Congress has ruled vir­tu­ally un­op­posed since it ended white-mi­nor­ity rule in 1994 with Nel­son Man­dela at its helm, but has lost sup­port — par­tic­u­larly in cities — among vot­ers who feel their lives have not im­proved.

The ANC was still lead­ing in the over­all count in the na­tion­wide mu­nic­i­pal vote, with 93 per­cent of bal­lots counted. But it trailed the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA) in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Nel­son Man­dela Bay, which in­cludes the city of Port Elizabeth, and Tsh­wane, home to the cap­i­tal Pre­to­ria.

The ANC has pre­vi­ously held full con­trol of these ar­eas, as well as the eco­nomic hub of Jo­han­nes­burg — where it held just a nar­row lead yes­ter­day.

Now, no party looks likely to win a ma­jor­ity in these three ur­ban cen­tres, ush­er­ing in a new era of coali­tion politics as South Africa shifts from what has ef­fec­tively been a one-party sys­tem in the pe­riod im­me­di­ately post-apartheid.

This shift re­shapes the po­lit­i­cal land­scape in South Africa ahead of the 2019 na­tional elec­tion, and may also em­bolden Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma’s ri­vals within the ANC to chal­lenge him.

The DA has re­tained con­trol of Cape Town, which it has held since 2006.

The ANC chief whip, Jack­son Mthembu, said the losses across the coun­try were “a wor­ry­ing trend” for the rul­ing party and would prompt soul-search­ing. “We need to have a se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion, and that is what we will do.”

The elec­tion also rep­re­sents a po­lit­i­cal re­nais­sance for the DA, which last year elected its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, as part of its ef­forts to shake off its im­age as a party that mainly serves white in­ter­ests.

“In the re­gion named af­ter Nel­son Man­dela, who pro­moted rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, I think it is fit­ting that we have to co­op­er­ate with other po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” said Athol Trol­lip, the DA’s may­oral can­di­date in the bay area. Fi­nal re­sults are due to­day. The ANC has lost its grip on the ma­jor cities where mil­lions of black peo­ple are now look­ing be­yond its lib­er­a­tion strug­gle cre­den­tials and fo­cus­ing on weak growth prospects for an econ­omy tee­ter­ing on the edge of a re­ces­sion.

Vot­ers, fac­ing a lack of jobs and poor ba­sic ser­vices, have been in­censed by a string of cor­rup­tion scan­dals that have en­gulfed Zuma.

“In many respects the elec­tions were ex­actly about na­tional is­sues, na­tional pol­icy fail­ures as much as they were about lo­cal is­sues and lo­cal prob­lems,” said Gary van Staden, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst with NKC African Eco­nomics.

The rad­i­cal left­ist Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers party, which is led by Julius Malema, Zuma’s one-time pro­tege, is par­tic­i­pat­ing in only its sec­ond elec­tion and was run­ning a dis­tant third in the votes counted.

It has, how­ever, won some sup­port from vot­ers frus­trated about in­equal­ity in a coun­try where black peo­ple make up about 80 per­cent of the 54 mil­lion — pop­u­la­tion, yet most of the econ­omy in terms of own­er­ship of land and com­pa­nies re­mains in the hands of white peo­ple, who ac­count for about 8 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Malema plans to re­dis­tribute among poor black peo­ple wealth still mostly in white hands.

Vot­ers are los­ing pa­tience with Zuma, who rat­tled in­vestors in De­cem­ber by chang­ing fi­nance min­is­ters twice in a week, send­ing the rand cur­rency plum­met­ing.

The pres­i­dent sur­vived an im­peach­ment vote in April af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court said he breached the law by ig­nor­ing an or­der to re­pay some of the $16 mil­lion in state funds spent on ren­o­vat­ing his pri­vate home in Nkandla. Zuma has since said he will re­pay some of the money.

The rand held its ground close to a nine-month high against the dol­lar early yes­ter­day, partly boosted by the smooth run­ning of the elec­tions.

“For­eign in­vestors will prob­a­bly wel­come the fact that re­duced sup­port for the rul­ing ANC has helped the cen­trist DA rather than the left­ist EFF,” said John Ash­bourne, Africa an­a­lyst at Cap­i­tal Eco­nomics, in a note. — AFP

ANC sup­port­ers at a pre-elec­tion rally in At­teridgeville, a town­ship lo­cated to the west of Pre­to­ria. Reuters

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