A municipal election in a faraway land would scarcely have aroused interest across the world were it not for the momentous implications. And so it has been in South Africa where the African National Congress has suffered its severest electoral setback since it won power 22 years ago. It has lost control of local government in the country&’s capital, Pretoria. Beyond the dramatic psephological swing must be the setback suffered by the anti-apartheid constituency. It has been a quirky turn of the narrative, as dramatic as almost incredible… of a kind that would have left Nelson Mandela aghast. Indeed, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has failed the crucial test of support for the ANC. The party&’s dominance since 1994 has been dented though it would be premature to speculate on the outcome of the next national elections.
The results could restructure the political landscape of South Africa where the ANC has ruled, essentially unopposed, since it ended white minority rule. Zuma&’s much younger rivals, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance Party, a liberal outfit, and Julius Malena, “commander in chief” of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, have knocked the ruling party off its pedestal. The ANC has lost what they call the “battleground metro areas” of Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria. Binned in the event is Zuma&’s pre-election rhetoric Rs “Voting ANC is like opening the gates to heaven.” The voter has reaffirmed that the popular perception can be rather different 22 years after the demise of apartheid. The opposition Democratic Alliance Party, which has its roots in the anti-apartheid movement and had a white party chief until last year, has edged out the ANC, but without attaining a majority.
The ANC has won a margin of victory in Johannesburg, but has fallen short of a majority. Before this year&’s election, the party had never lost a municipality with a predominantly black electorate. It has now lost two, including Nelson Mandela Bay, named after the country&’s first black President and former ANC leader.
Clearly, the outcome is a robust verdict of disenchanted voters against the dearth of jobs and endemic corruption under the ANC. Over the years since apartheid ended, the ruling party has been weakened by a number of scandals, many of which concern President Zuma. Furthermore, the country&’s stagnant economy has been stuttering since the global financial crash. Going by World Bank projections, the country has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. Markedly, the post-1994 generation represents a sizable segment of the country&’s electorate. And they have spoken against the overwhelming corruption and the economic mess.