#SouthAfricaDecides: Issues and Intrigues Ahead of the S/Africa 2019 Elections

Ebenezer Makinde
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Before 1994, it was Apartheid system in South Africa but what we have now is a western-style democratic system. It has been a rough journey for South Africans especially those who experienced the Apartheid system.

The transition of South Africa from a system of segregation in 1994 to a democracy has been said to be one of the most impressive developments in the country till date. Since the official end of the apartheid regime in 1994, South Africa has continued on the path of democratic governance characterized by multi-partyism and democratic elections every five years.

The 2019 elections in South Africa presents another opportunity for the people of South Africa to consolidate and build on their previous democratic gains. The election is slated to take place on May 8, 2019. Unlike other African countries where presidential elections are conducted to directly elect the president, in South Africa, the situation is quite different.

The forthcoming election is basically to elect new national assembly (parliament) and new provincial legislatures (like state house of assemblies in Nigeria).

Basic Details about the Forthcoming Elections

Proportional representation is used to elect the parliament. The seats in the parliament (400 seats) are allocated to the parties in proportion to the number of votes won in the election. Therefore, a party that won 10% of the votes will simply get 10% of the seats available in the parliament (400 seats).

The party that won the highest and more than 50% of seats in the parliament will have the opportunity to form the government. After the general election, the President of South Africa will then be elected by the National Assembly.

The contesting political parties in the election include the African National Congress (ANC) led by Cyril Ramaphosa and the major opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) led by Mmusi Maimane. Other parties contesting in the election are: Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema, Inkatha Freedom Party led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the National Freedom Party (NFP), United Democratic Movement (UDM) led by Bantu Holomisa, Freedom Front Plus led by Pieter Groenwald, Congress of the People (COPE) led by Mosiuoa Lekota and host of others.

The voters in the forthcoming election includes all citizens of South Africa who are 18 years and above and who have registered to vote with the electoral commission. There are about 26,727,921 registered local voters ready to cast their votes in the election. Also on March 14, 2019 the Independent Electoral Commission confirmed that about 30,532 South Africans in diaspora have applied to vote in the election, of which 29,334 of the applications have been approved.

This means that about 29,334 South Africa citizens living outside the country will have the opportunity to participate in the forthcoming elections.

Issues and Intrigues Ahead of the May 8, 2019 Election

Like everywhere in the world, the economy constitutes an important issue in South Africa, more so, in an election period. It will be recalled that the country slipped into a recession during the first quarter of 2018 following two consecutive quarters of negative growth which piled enough pressure on the ruling African National Congress.

Though the country has since moved out of recession, the performance of the ruling party in relation to economy will still play major role in determining the direction of the votes on May 8, 2019.

Hoping to convince the electorate on his ability to improve the quality of the economy, the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa have since vowed to revive the economy by “attracting $100 billion in foreign investment and by fighting corruption. He has made further promise to deliver a progressive South Africa for all.

He highlighted education, land, gender equality, job creation and focus on the economy as the major areas that the African National Congress will focus on if they retain the majority in the forthcoming election. 

On the other hand, fight against corruption, creation of jobs, Immigration and service delivery have been identified by Democratic Alliance as its focus areas ahead of the election. Commenting on one of it focus areas, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) argued that “no country in the world can afford uncontrolled immigration, and particularly not a country where resources are scarce as ours.”

Immigration has become a topical issue in South Africa with the major political parties (the ANC and the DA) taking opposing stands on the issue. A vote for the Democratic Alliance almost always going to translate to a tighter security at South Africa’s borders.

A vote for African National Congress (ANC) means otherwise. Land expropriation is another germane topic in South Africa ahead of the 2019 general elections. The debate on land expropriation without compensation has continued in South Africa especially since any major land reform is posed to have major impact on food security, stability in the agricultural sector, economy, investor confidence and other major parts of citizens life.

On many occasion during this campaign period, the DA has also accused the ANC of encouraging corruption in the country. Specifically, Mmusi Maimane indicted the ruling party of tolerating corruption by making it the “new normal”. He further argued that the ANC instead of punishing the corrupt among them, usually promotes them. According to him, “in fact, they not only keep their jobs, they get promotions. Ace Magashule is now the ANC secretary-general, David Mabuza is now the deputy president. People are angry about this.”

The ANC taking initiative from the DA has also promised to fight corruption. But the inclusion of controversial party members like Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane and Bathabile Dlamini (all have been implicated in one corruption case or the other) on the party list for the parliamentary election has cast enough aspersion on the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa’s objective to root out corruption in South Africa.

How can you possibly fight corruption when you are surrounded by corrupt individuals? If at all you want to fight corruption, you should begin with your corrupt friends. We can jokingly say “like Nigeria, like South Africa” 

Since Jacob Zuma stepped down in February, 2018 due to allegation of corruption, corruption and the economy have continued to generate arguments and point of views in South Africa. We can in fact understand why this is so. And more so, why the economy and the fight against corruption have taken centre stage ahead of the election in South Africa.

It has been said that corruption under the Jacob Zuma’s regime in South Africa undermined democracy, where many essential state institutions collapsed and the economy destroyed which culminated in the economic recession in early 2018 characterized by increased in poverty rate and inequality.

A country like South Africa with histories of race-induced segregation and discrimination cannot be free from race related issues yet. Race has therefore continued to be an important issue in South Africa.  As such, it will play great role in determining the direction of the voting on May 8, 2019.

Though the Democratic Alliance has been said to have broken through the race barrier especially with Mmusi Maimane (a black man) as the leader of the party, there are still allegations of white dominance in the party, especially the argument that DA is a white party.

If the allegation is true or if the propaganda of white dominance in the DA gather enough momentum, it will definitely reduce the party’s chances in the election.

The ANC on the other hand has continued to rely on its historic appeal and support among the black majority in South Africa. In the light of the importance of race in SA, the ANC and DA have averred their commitment to non-racial and equal South Africa where everyone, black or white will enjoy equal opportunity.

Favourite ANC and the Potential Role of the Minor Parties

Permutations and predictions have reached a top gear ahead of the South Africa election. Generally, the ANC is believed to be the major favourite to win the election, but the opposition parties are hoping to take advantage of the divisions in the ANC.

It will be recalled that the ANC had split in 2018 between the supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the former president Jacob Zuma. The ANC is therefore not in good shape ahead of the election.

One of the party leader of the DA, Zwakele Mncwango had said that the ANC is at its weakest moment especially in the light of the division in the ANC. According to him, “the main mission for us is to drop the ANC below 50 percent. We have seen it possible”.

A situation where the ANC and of course DA did not get above 50% of the votes in the election will create a major role for the minor parties in the elections. Already, it has been insinuated that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will likely increase its share of the votes at the expense of the ANC.

And if ANC`s support, measured by the percentage of votes won in the election fall below 50% in the forthcoming election, SA would likely be run by a coalition of political parties which will force a compromise on key issues. Basically, the era of one party dominance is coming to end in SA.

Though the African National Congress (ANC) remains the favourite in the election, the liberation narratives sold by the party to the electorate in previous elections are no longer appealing to an average voter in South Africa. The people are now more interested in education, service delivery and fight against corruption.


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