South Africa Elections: Jacob Zuma’s ANC Suffers Major Setback

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has suffered its worst electoral setback since apartheid ended in 1994, BBC reports.

With 98% of the votes counted after Wednesday’s municipal elections, the party has lost the key battleground of Nelson Mandela Bay to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

The two parties are in a close fight for Johannesburg and Pretoria.

But the ANC is still in the lead nationally, with 54% of the vote.

Nationwide, with 98 percent of ballots counted in this week’s municipal elections, the A.N.C. garnered 54 percent of the vote — its lowest level in an election since in 1994, when Mr. Mandela became president and the party became South Africa’s dominant political force.

The decline in support for the A.N.C. was especially sharp in the nation’s eight major cities, where a growing number of black, middle-class voters turned against the politics of patronage personified by Mr. Zuma and increasingly resisted the A.N.C.’s emotive appeals to its heroic past.

“We’re waking up to a new political scene in South Africa,” said William Gumede, a political scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg according to the New York Times. “People are clearly not voting anymore based on the past. They’re now voting on the current reality of poor service delivery and the Zuma presidency.”

The party’s showing in this week’s municipal elections fell well below the 60 percent threshold that the party’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, identified in a report in October as “a psychological and political turning point that would be interpreted as an indication of the demise of the movement.”

The main beneficiary of that dissatisfaction was the Democratic Alliance, a political party that was traditionally led by white South Africans who opposed apartheid but now has many young black leaders. During the campaign, the A.N.C. attacked the Democratic Alliance as a Trojan horse for white interests.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the A.N.C. and of the nation, said at a news conference on Friday afternoon that the organization would “do an introspective look at ourselves.”

“We are a party that’s not going away from the body politic of this country,” he said. “Where we have shown areas of weakness, we are going to get better and improve. That’s who we are. We learn from our mistakes.”

Mr. Ramaphosa, who is considered a leading contender to succeed Mr. Zuma as the A.N.C.’s presidential candidate in 2019, sounded contrite, in a possible sign of how the party might try to regroup.

“They think that we are arrogant,” he said of voters, “they think that we are self-centered, they think that we are self-serving, and I’d like to dispute all of that and say we are a listening organization.”

Mr. Zuma’s seven years in office have been marked by a series of scandals, including the use of millions of dollars in government funds to renovate his private home; accusations that Indian businessmen close to him offered to dole out powerful government posts in exchange for favorable treatment; and Mr. Zuma’s appointment of allies with little experience to important positions in government and state-owned companies.

The party’s poor showing this week also showed the extent of frustration over the economy, which has been made worse by Mr. Zuma’s erratic decisions, and anger over one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality.



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