• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

South Africa goes to poll today as ruling ANC faces biggest defeat since Mandela

South Africans vote in most competitive election since apartheid ended

South Africa goes to the polls today in a significant election, occurring 30 years after the end of apartheid, and it may be the first time the long-dominant African National Congress (ANC) faces losing its majority in parliament.

The ANC, led by Nelson Mandela, triumphed in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, symbolising the end of apartheid and the beginning of a new era of equality and representation.

Since then, the ANC has maintained a firm grip on power, but recent years have seen its popularity wane due to various factors, including corruption scandals, economic struggles, and public dissatisfaction with governance.

Recent polls suggest that the ANC’s approval rating has dipped below 50%, a stark contrast to the overwhelming support it once enjoyed.

This decline opens the door for opposition parties to make gains. The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are among the prominent parties hoping to capitalise on the ANC’s weakened position.

Also, former President Jacob Zuma’s newly formed party, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), poses a threat to the ruling party. MK could get the majority of votes in its eastern Zulu heartlands, potentially denying the ANC a parliamentary majority.

The potential defeat of the ANC poses a threat to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s second and final five-year term. However, he is still likely to be reelected after today’s national vote, analysts have predicted.

However, the situation may not be straightforward. Parliament determines the president, and the possibility of a coalition government looms large if the ANC fails to secure a majority.

Such an outcome would necessitate new alliances and potentially reshape South Africa’s political and economic landscapes, a situation that frightens investors should the ruling party form a coalition with the Marxist EFF.

Analysts suggest that this could either lead to more balanced governance or result in instability, depending on how well the parties can collaborate.
Also, a significant decline in ANC votes would pressure Ramaphosa within party ranks. Historically, the ANC has withdrawn support for its party leader during troubled times, leading to their resignation as president.

In neighbourhoods like Melville in Johannesburg, the atmosphere is one of cautious optimism mixed with uncertainty. Electoral staff were observed diligently setting up polling stations, ensuring everything is in place for a smooth voting process.

Many South Africans are eager for change, frustrated by the high unemployment rates, persistent inequality, and inadequate public services.

South Africa’s economy has struggled with slow growth, high unemployment, and rising debt levels. Voters are keen to see concrete plans for economic revival.

A notable dynamic in this election is the role of younger voters and social media. With a significant portion of the population under the age of 30, political campaigns have increasingly turned to social media platforms to engage and mobilise the youth vote. These platforms have become critical battlegrounds for shaping opinions and rallying support.