S.Africa set for political shake-up as ANC loses majorityFri, 31 May 2024 13:34:46 GMT

South Africa’s ruling ANC was on track Friday to score its worst electoral result ever, with the latest tallies showing voters deserted the party in droves and ended its 30-year political dominance.The African National Congress (ANC) is now all but certain to fall below 50 percent of the vote, forcing the party to seek a coalition partner to have enough backing to name a president and form a government.This marks an historic evolution in the country’s democratic journey, as the party has enjoyed an absolute parliamentary majority since 1994, when its then leader Nelson Mandela led the nation out of white minority rule and into democracy.With more than two thirds of the votes cast in Wednesday’s general election counted, the ANC remained in the lead but with a score below 42 percent, compared to the 57 percent it won in 2019 and far off the 62 percent secured by Mandela in 1994.As votes continued to be validated, data from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) held second place with 22.64 percent.But it was not a surge by the DA that cut into the ANC’s vote share. In third place was former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) on 12 percent, a surprise score for a party founded barely six months ago as a vehicle for the former ANC chief.    The final results are expected at the weekend, but with the trends clear and the votes stacking up on the IEC website, politicians and pundits were turning their attention to the prospects of an ANC-led coalition.- Right or left? –  The ANC has dominated South Africa’s democracy with an unbroken run of five presidents from the party, but if the latest, President Cyril Ramaphosa, is to remain at the helm he will have to decide whether to seek allies on his right or his left.There will be resistance within his movement to a tie-up with the second-placed DA, under white politician John Steenhuisen, whose pro-free market programme of privatisation and an end to black economic empowerment programmes is at odds with the ruling party’s traditions.     But there will also be reluctance to invite Zuma, who left government facing a raft of corruption allegations, or firebrand Julius Malema’s radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) into government after both fought bitter campaigns against their former party.  – ‘Unpredictable partners’ – The ANC retains the loyalty of many voters for its leading role in overthrowing white minority rule and its progressive social welfare and black economic empowerment policies are credited by supporters with helping millions of black families out of poverty.But over, three decades of almost unchallenged rule, its leadership has been implicated in a series of large-scale corruption scandals, while the continent’s most industrialised economy has languished and crime and unemployment figures have hit record highs.Some experts expect the party to patch up ties with one or both of the radical left groups, especially as the Zuma’s MK has stormed to victory in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.”The MK has really eaten into the ANC’s vote,” Siphamandla Zondi, a politics professor from the University of Johannesburg, told AFP.Others, like analyst and author Susan Booysen, said the rift between Ramaphosa and Zuma — who has long been bitter about the way he was forced out of office in 2018 — was “too far reaching” to mend.The ANC might instead prefer the centre-right DA, which pledged to “rescue South Africa” through better governance, free market reforms and privatisations, to the leftist EFF, which is perceived as “too erratic” and “unpredictable” in its demands, she added.But another outside observer, political analyst and business leader Sandile Swana, argued that Ramaphosa’s authority had take such a beating in the election that he would not be able to push reluctant party bigwigs to accept a DA alliance. “His power is gone within the ANC,” he said.