SEATTLE –Twenty-five years ago, South Africa held its first free elections after the end of apartheid. The African National Congress won overwhelmingly, and its leader, Nelson Mandela, began to knit the country back together as its new president. As post-apartheid South Africa completes its sixth democratic election, it is worth recalling Mandela’s formidable legacy.
As the dust settles following our sixth democratic elections, it is clear that the SA electorate has sent the country’s political parties a few solid messages. In the main, these messages have been aimed at the two largest political parties, the ANC and the DA, although the most important one has been more generally intended rather than specifically targeted at those parties.
The African National Congress (ANC) – like most liberation movements-turned political parties – has dominated South Africa’s politics since it came to power in 1994. Having just won 57.50% of the national vote in the general election, it appears set to continue its dominance until the next one in 2024.
Twenty-five years since South Africa’s first democratic election, the country reels in anxiety. Poverty levels sit at 27.7 percent overall and 45.5 percent in rural areas, while potential destitution hangs over another 76 percent of the population. South Africa has recently been again awarded the title of most unequal country in the world, with recent research finding that 10 percent of the population owns 90 percent of the country’s wealth and 50–65 percent of the country’s income.
This is the first instalment of a three-part series around South Africa’s 8 May general elections.
Asanda Qosha was walking briskly along a dirt road in KwaTshatshu, on the outskirts of King Williams Town, in the Eastern Cape when I met him. Smartly dressed, he was making his way among the scattered houses, set in the green, rolling hillsides.
Fact: South Africa has a major unemployment problem. Wherever you go you find people desperate to work, desperate to get the income and dignity only work can bring. And yet, despite the 2019 elections being less than two weeks away, it does not seem that this issue is really dominating. At the same time, there is now some evidence that most voters don’t believe any particular party can resolve this crisis. That alone has important implications for our society.
The Gauteng provincial election is going to be close. Very close. Although there's no doubt that the ANC will be the largest party in Gauteng, the key question is just whether the party will reach 50%.
Given historic voting patterns, recent by-elections and all of the polling we have seen, it is clear it will be a very tight race between the ANC and 50% in Gauteng. In a previous article, I explained the key drivers of the relative ANC weakness in the 2016 local government election. The two primary drivers were turnout and important shifts against the ANC in the black electorate.
On Saturday, 27 April, South Africa will celebrate Freedom Day, the on which South Africa held its first democratic elections. But the events that unfolded before that monumental day were grim.
Black-and-white pictures were projected onto the wall of a South African classroom and gospel music played evocatively in the background.
The pictures told a chilling tale: Angry protesters. Policemen beating crowds. Corpses lying scattered on the road. Coffins piled up.
The date of these events – 21 March 1960 – is etched in the annals of history.