Ruling ANC May Lose Majority In General Elections In South Africa

By Satyaki Chakraborty

The African National Congress (ANC) which is ruling South Africa since the end of apartheid regime in 1994, is facing a stiff challenge from the opposition parties in the general elections to be held on May 29. As per the Constitution, the ANC needs a majority of 50 per cent of the votes polled to retain its ruling status, but the latest opinion polls indicate that the ANC can only get 44 per cent of the votes. If that happens, the ANC has to form a coalition with other contending parties to get a majority in the parliament for governing.

This is the seventh general election South Africa is holding since the end of white minority rule 30 years ago. A record 27.79 million people are registered to vote – the highest number to date, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC.) The slide in popularity mirrors the challenges of liberation movements that have transitioned into governing parties across the continent.

If support for the ANC drops below 50% for the first time, the party will be forced to enter into a coalition government. A loss of a simple majority would put significant pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa within his party, as he promised a “new dawn” when he took over leadership in 2018 from disgraced former president Jacob Zuma. President Ramaphosa is making all efforts to take corrective actions to undo the damages done during the regime of earlier President Zacob Zuma but the corruption has gone deep into the ANC party members and till now, anti incumbency is dominant on the issues of corruption and criminal activities.

Support for the ANC has been on a slow downward trend over the decades but at the last election in 2019 it dropped below 60% for the first time, with the party earning 57.50% of the votes.. But since then, the support to ANC started going down as the extent of corruption and crime went on affecting the common citizens of the nation. Official data say that murder level is at a 20 year high with someone killed in South Africa every 20 minutes As regards corruption, in 2024, South Africa received its lowest score on Transparency International Corruption Perception Index

The country’s main opposition party, the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA), is led by John Steenhuisen and is seen by many as a party for White South Africans..For May 29 elections, the DA has formed a coalition bloc with smaller opposition parties called the Multi Party Charter..South African political analysts say if the ANC fails to get majority, ANC may consider forming a coalition with Zuma backed party MK and another smaller party Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF).

Steenhuisen, leader of the DA,, for his part, has not ruled out going into coalition with the ANC if it were to keep the EFF and MK out of government. But it is likely that ANC will like to have smaller parties as coalition partners rather than the main opposition party like DA.

The EFF is a populist far-left party led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema. It began as a splinter party of the ANC and espouses expropriation of land without compensation and sweeping state nationalism. The EFF has shown support for the MK party and its leader Malema recently said that he intends to “give the EFF vote to the ANC” if it doesn’t get 50% – on the condition that his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, becomes Minister of Finance. Steenhuisen has described an ANC-EFF-MK pact as a “doomsday coalition.”

South Africa has seen sluggish growth for a decade, and was hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent spike in global prices. The country also has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world, just under 33%, with youth unemployment at around 44 per cent.

Another factor hurting South Africa’s economy is a long-running energy crisis. Until a few weeks ago, the country was experiencing almost daily scheduled blackouts known as “loadshedding” — the government’s attempt to ease pressure on the overstretched grid. State-owned power company Eskom has been accused of mismanagement, corruption and failure to maintain aging infrastructure.

The African National Congress (ANC) has been ruling the nation since 1994 when Nelson Mandela became the president as the head of the ANC which led the liberation struggle against the British rulers. The ANC from the beginning was a platform of freedom fighters of different shades of political persuasion. South African Communist Party (SACP) which took a prominent part in the anti-apartheid struggle, has been a part of the ruling ANC all along and its leaders held positions of ministers in the government of ANC. The SACP members, however are in the government as ANC members and they fight elections also on ANC ballot.. Another participant in the triple alliance is the trade union body COSATU.

SACP has been fighting inside the ANC government for the implementation of its programme. Some demands were approved, some were not, but SACP members remained loyal to the ANC regime. However, the relationship took a bitter turn during the presidentship of Jacob Zuma who was charged for corruption. He was later removed and Mr. Ramaphosa took over as the president replacing him. The new president has better ties with the SACP.

Under president Ramaphosa’s leadership, South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice for war crimes. The ICJ mentioned of Israeli crimes as genocide and asked the Israeli government to take immediate action to end its war crimes. Though Israel and other western nations, are yet to implement the ICJ directive, South Africa’s stature has gone up among the developing nations. South Africa is a leading member of the BRICS group of which India is also a prominent member.

SACP leadership discussed the possibility of leaving the ANC and functioning independently outside the ANC during Zuma’s presidency but the leadership waited taking into account the looming threat from the opposition Democratic Alliance. Now with Mr. Ramaphosa as president, the SACP, after long debate on the issue opted to remain as a part of the ANC and fight the general elections jointly.

Out of the 29 million registered voters in South Africa, 77 per cent are youth. They are looking for jobs and better opportunities. The opposition Democratic Alliance has been making all efforts to tap this section of the electorate. SACP is focusing on youth as the Party has a strong youth organization and its youth leaders are popular. The SACP is still following a two stage theory according to which the first phase was the national democratic phase and this will be followed by the second stage of socialist development.

Defying the far left critics of the Party, the SACP leadership says that the time is still not ripe for the second stage and it is politically sensible to remain as a part of the ANC to fight in the coming general elections jointly to ensure the victory of the ANC once again

The past few years have seen an increasingly outspoken SACP criticizing the ANC’s record in government — particularly over its failure to reduce poverty and inequality. The Party leaders slammed the actions of former president Jacob Zuma, both for facilitating the “state capture” of public enterprises in office and for backing the new MK party — named after the ANC’s armed wing — in the forthcoming elections. President Ramaphosa has been taking some corrective actions to heal the damages done by a section of the ANC ministers. But his move is yet to impress a large section of the voters.

The May 29 election is a big challenge to both the President Ramaphosa and the present ANC leadership. The South African Communist Party is working hard in favour of the ruling alliance. The Party wants the ANC to win so that the party can continue its internal battle within ANC to root out corruption and implement more pro-people programmes. The other African nations are also looking at the outcome of the May 29 polls. The African Left leaders are of the view that President Ramaphosa is the strong leader of the continent and he has been the consistent fighter against the West’s policies including the appeasement of Israel. He should not be weakened in the May 29 general elections. It is now up to the voters of South Africa to decide. The results will be out on June 2. (IPA )


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