WITH 62.15 per cent of the popular vote, the African National Congress, ANC, extended its 20-year hold on power, amid allegations of scandals and economic malaise afflicting South Africa. It was the first election after the death of iconic Nelson Mandela last December.
The hold is slipping 62.65 per cent (1994), 66.35 per cent (1999), 69.69 per cent (2004), 65.9 per (2009), 62.15 per cent (2014), the lowest ever. A seeming revolution ended as an anti-climax as Julius Malema’s challenge for Jacob Zuma’s job ended in defeat.
The main opposition party, the centrist Democratic Alliance, DA, got 22 per cent of the votes, a 5 per cent gain from its 17 per cent in 2009 while Malema’s eight-month-old Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF, scored 6.1 per cent.
Again, the results re-established the dominance of the 102-year-old ANC as the ruling party since the end of white minority rule 20 years ago. It also shows the gratitude of South Africans to late Nelson Mandela, the face of South Africa’s liberation struggles and democratic renewal.
Hopes for sustenance of a democratic South Africa abound. Without the two-thirds majority it requires in parliament to push its legislations, ANC will depend on alliances. A testy proposal would be a constitutional amendment to shield ex-presidents from prosecution. Some believe it is meant for Zuma.
Other controversial legislations, most notably, to protect state information and the traditional courts would try ANC’s hold on power. South Africans believe that protecting state information impinges on freedom of expression while the traditional courts would give enormous power to un-elected traditional chiefs and suppress rights of women.
Corruption charges arising from using tax payer’s money to renovate his Nkandla private estate trailed Zuma throughout the campaign. The Malema phenomenon indicated the dissatisfaction with ANC’s political and economic policies. Zuma would face these challenges in the next five years as he tries to push for more reforms to reduce poverty and inequality in the black community. Signs of economic discontent emerged in the Marikina mine shooting and series of strikes in the mining sector.
The peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections in South Africa has maintained a tradition of periodic auditing of its elected leaders without rancour and disruptive tendencies. It is commendable. We expect Zuma with his new mandate to fight corruption, which has become a major issue in his country. Allegations of malfeasance in the party and government vitiate his economic policies.
A stable South Africa is expected to play more robust roles in regional and continental issues as Africa faces renewed wave of crisis on different fronts. Nigerians look forward to improved relations with South Africa, for the benefit of our peoples.