South Africa: the Land of Contrasts Part III

President Jacob Zuma, who has been at the helm since 2009, has been the target of growing criticism from both the opposition and the mass media. He has long been accused of abuse of power and corruption; he is sentenced to repay large sums that were taken from public funds to rebuild his own home. His private life is also making headlines, and more lawsuits can be expected. Although the ANC has so far held its hand over an increasingly unpopular leader, who has been elected until 2019, many believe that he should resign before that time if confidence in the party can be restored.

7: ANC: a shot for the bow

The local elections in August 2016 were therefore about more than municipal and city councils. By and large, they were to be regarded as a referendum for and against President Zuma and the ANC. The result was a clear setback for the ruling party, even though the party with 54 percent received far more votes than all other parties combined. But now the ANC has a strong challenger in the Democratic Alliance (DA), which gets practically all the white votes. They have long been dominant in the Western Cape province, where many whites and inhabitants are called “colored” (of mixed descent). In Cape Town, the DA received 66.5 of the votes, against 27 percent in the country as a whole.

The most important change is that the Democratic Alliance has now managed to make a solid inroad into the black middle class in the big cities beyond the Cape area. DA belongs to the right in the political landscape, and the party went to the polls for greater leeway for private business, weaker state and lower taxes . According to, it suits many Africans in the middle class, and for the first time DA has also fielded an African leader, Mmusi Maimane . He is in his thirties and therefore represents a new generation. In the election campaign, the party’s most important argument was that the country needs renewal after the long-term ANC dominance and that it is healthy for democracy with an airing.

The figures show that DA is now the largest party also in large cities such as Pretoria and Port Elizabeth. The ANC barely managed to get a horse’s head in front in Johannesburg. In six of the country’s eight provinces (see map), the ANC still has a solid majority. They are also largest in Gauteng, where Pretoria and Johannesburg are located, although they do not have a majority alone. The ANC has received a scare shot, but it is too early to issue the death certificate.

8: Challenge also from the left

When the ANC went back so much from the previous local elections in 2011, when they got well over 60 percent, this was not just due to fleeing to the right. At least as important is the fact that many young voters have preferred Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The party, which participated in the local elections for the first time, captured 8 percent of the vote and reached 10-11 percent in central metropolitan areas.

EFF is led by Julius Malema – former leader of the ANC’s youth union. He started a movement that stormed into the National Assembly in 2014. In this year’s election campaign, he aimed at those who believe that the ANC has failed its radical ideals, and the program includes both state takeover of the mining industry, minimum wage and progress in redistribution of rural property . They are ruthless in their criticism of President Zuma , and their language is quite violent at times. As neither of the two major parties has a majority alone in Pretoria and Johannesburg, this means that the EEF will have more influence. But they do not join any city council until the distance to the others is too great. They have nevertheless given the green light for the DA to try, and they therefore get a mayor in the big cities.

Exciting in 2019: If there is no new economic growth, a better distribution and greater ability of the governing party to listen to the grassroots, the election for a new national assembly in 2019 can be met with excitement for the first time. Then there will also be even more young voters, who were not even born when the ANC was at the forefront of the liberation struggle.

Some facts about South Africa

  • Surface content: approx. 1.2 million kmĀ²
  • Population: approx. 53.7 million (2015)
  • Annual population growth: 1.3%
  • Life expectancy: 62.3 years, K: 63.9, M: 60.9
  • Children per woman: 2.3
  • Median age: approx. 26.5
  • Economic growth: 1.5 (2014) and 1.3% (2015)
  • Composition of GDP: agriculture: 2.4%, industry 30.3% and services 67%
  • Literacy among those over 15: 94%
  • Proportion of the population living in cities: 65%
  • Religion: Protestants 37%, Catholics 7%, Other Christians 36% Muslims 1.5, Non-believers 15
  • Official language: English and Afrikaans, many local and regional official languages. Most South Africans are bilingual
  • Ethnic composition : black about 80%, white 8%, “colored” 8% and Indians Asian 2.5%

South Africa 2

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