Sunday, 19 April 2009

South Africa on the brink of elections

South Africa will vote in its fourth democratic election on Wednesday, 22 April.
The first democratic election of 1994 was hailed around the world as a miraculous transition of power. The totalitarian apartheid regime had participated in negotiating a model constitution and Nelson Mandela acquired the status of great statesmanship.
The ANC was swept to power in the 1994 election and has maintained a strong majority ever since.
But all has not been well within the ruling party. In November 2007 the ANC conference elected a new National Executive Committee with Jacob Zuma at the helm.
Jacob Zuma posed something of a problem. He was under a cloud of corruption allegations. Charges that had been brought had to be withdrawn while the courts decided whether evidence available to the prosecution could be admitted. New charges were laid shortly after the conference.
A number of ANC stalwarts broke away from the organisation to form a new party called the Congress of the People or COPE. The new party showed some promise but it has been plagued by infighting. Alan Boesak - convicted of defrauding his own charity was welcomed into the new party.
All in all there are about 18 parties contesting the election. The strength of the ANC vote is still uncertain. Many ANC supporters see Zuma as a kind of Messiah - he has promised all things to all people.
Some ANC voters are not happy with the new leadership - the big question is whether they will still vote for the ANC.
The other main parties are the Democratic Alliance (DA) that has been working hard to lose its image of a white liberal party. The Inkatha Freedom Party is strong in Kwa-Zulu Natal and will not impact the result of the election significantly.
If the forecasts are correct, the ANC is likely to win a significant if reduced majority. The main problems facing the country is that the president in waiting - Jacob Zuma - still has a cloud of corruption allegations hanging over his head. The charges have been dropped following undue pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority by the ANC.
Wednesday's election results may produce some surprises. The results will be eagerly awaited.

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