In South African the ANC suffers its worst election results in 30 years…

All is not well in the rainbow nation of South Africa. Riven by scandal, allegations of corruption, stasis, and a general lack of delivery on the day to day issues, the ANC vote share fell to below 50%. From Alexis Akwagyiram in The Guardian:

The results are in, and the message is stark: the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been humbled in the country’s general election. South Africa is going through the biggest shift in its political landscape since the end of apartheid 30 years ago.

Counting of Wednesday’s poll shows that the party has fallen below the 50% required for a parliamentary majority for the first time since the end of minority white rule in 1994. It must now share power for the first time. And its political leaders will have to suffer the ignominy of scrambling to forge a coalition with their opponents.

It’s a new low for the ANC. This is the party, born out of Africa’s most famous liberation movement, that freed Black South Africans from white minority rule, avoided the country descending into civil war and, in Nelson Mandela, gave the country its first Black president.

On the face of it, the election result is a tragedy. For those of us of a certain vintage, the ANC evokes memories of Mandela emerging from prison with his clenched fist held aloft. Four years after his release, the 1994 election in which Black people cast their votes for the first time sealed the ANC’s triumph over a vile system of racial segregation.

But look again: the reality is that South Africa’s latest election result is good for the country. It shows that its democracy is giving citizens the ability to hold the government to account. Voters had plenty of options – a record 51 opposition parties were on the national ballot. That level of choice, combined with a proportional representation system, means South Africans will end up with a government that better reflects the will of voters than countries dominated by two parties with more arcane voting systems, such as the UK and US.

South Africa’s government has had a lot to answer for. Africa’s most industrialised economy has been run into the ground. One in three South Africans of working age are unemployed, rising to nearly half – 45.5% – for those aged between 15 and 34.

Such high levels of joblessness help to explain why people born after the end of apartheid – the “born free” generation – have turned their back on the ANC. They drove this change. Many feel economically disfranchised in a country ranked by the World Bank as one of the most unequal in the world. And, with no recollection of apartheid, they don’t feel the pull to vote for the ANC out of loyalty.

High unemployment was just one of a long list of grievances South Africans shared with me in the runup to the election. Rolling electricity blackouts caused by power rationing, known as “load shedding”, have frustrated people for years and strangled businesses. Access to clean water has become harder for the poorest people and violent crime has become pervasive in some neighbourhoods.

A slew of scandals involving ANC figures highlighted the difference between the haves and have-nots. Jacob Zuma, the country’s president from 2009 to 2018, has been accused of overseeing systemic corruption, known as state capture, in which he allegedly allowed businessmen close to him to loot state resources and influence government policy.

Even the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC veteran and successful businessman who was part of the negotiation team that brokered the deal that ended apartheid, was nearly impeached over a scandal involving between $500,000 and $5m in cash that was stolen from his private game farm.

The corruption and economic rot that has set in are the product of South Africa having been a de facto one-party state for the past 30 years. The lack of oversight allowed the worst elements of corruption to take hold within the party.

But, on balance, the shift to coalition government will benefit South Africa. It’s also an opportunity for the ANC to rebuild itself. It will still be the biggest party in government, having won the largest share of votes – 40% compared with about 20% won by its closest rival, the main opposition Democratic Alliance.

Seemingly believing that their party was destined to govern in perpetuity, ANC grandees were shocked by the election outcome. The party has learned that it can be punished and must not take the electorate for granted.

It’s the start of a new era for South Africa. And it’s hard to imagine that what lies ahead could be worse than the causes of this great reset.


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