ANC tipped to win election, but support sliding

Updated May 09, 2019

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Vote counting begins at a polling station in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. — AP
Vote counting begins at a polling station in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. — AP

JOHANNESBURG: The African National Congress faced its toughest electoral test on Wednesday as it sought to reverse a slide in support from voters frustrated by graft and racial inequalities a generation after it won power in South Africa’s first all-race poll.

South Africa is holding parliamentary and provincial elections amid frustration with a lack of progress 25 years after Nelson Mandelas ANC swept to power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Queues built up at polling stations through the morning. Some polling stations around Johannesburg opened late or did not have voting materials. Officials have said the results could be announced on Saturday.

The national election is the first under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018 after four years as his deputy.

Opinion polls suggest the ANC will again win a majority of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, but analysts have predicted its margin of victory will fall.

“I’m a member of the ANC but I didn’t vote for them this time,” said construction worker Thabo Makhene, 32, in the commercial hub of Johannesburg.

“They need to catch a wake-up. The way they run the state, mishandling state funds, theyve lost their morals.” Pete Mokokosi, a 77-year-old pensioner, said he felt South Africans needed change, a better economy, education and jobs.

“The weather changes everyday, why can't we?” he said as he waited to vote in Soweto.

In Cape Town, Anneke du Plessis, 43, who works at a media company, said her vote was to end corruption.

“We have to unite and stop this downward spiral. This is the most important vote since 1994,” she said. Some voters said they would back the ruling party.

“They have made mistakes before but this time we have the right man,” said Alpheus Zihle, 69, a pensioner in Alexandra township in Johannesburg who said he would vote for the ANC.

The ANC’s biggest challengers are the main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The ANC won 62 per cent of the vote in 2014’s parliamentary election, down from 2009 and far short of its best result, 69 per cent in 2004 under President Thabo Mbeki.

Analysts have put that falling support down to corruption allegations against government officials, a slowing economy with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and demands from black citizens for more equitable distribution of land.

Ramaphosa — who became ANC leader after narrowly defeating a faction allied with Zuma — has promised to improve service delivery, create jobs and fight corruption. But his reforms have been held up by divisions and opposition within his own party.

“Reforms will remain at best one-step-forward, one-step-back and so potential growth will not rise,” Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex, said in a note.

Africa’s most industrialised economy grew at an estimated 0.8 per cent in 2018 after recovering from a recession in the first half of the year when a drought hit farming, although blackouts at power utility Eskom continue to drag on activity. Growth is forecast at 1.5 per cent this year.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019