ANC on course to lose majority in South Africa’s election

By Farouk Chothia, BBC News, Johannesburg

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is on course to lose its majority in parliament for the first time since it came to power 30 years ago, partial results from Thursday’s parliamentary election suggest.

With results from more than 50 percent of voting districts counted so far, the ANC is leading with 42 percent, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 23 percent.

The uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) of former president Jacob Zuma has received nearly 11 percent of the vote and the Economic Freedom Fighters party, nearly 10 percent.

Final results are expected over the weekend.

Many voters blame the ANC for the high levels of corruption, crime and unemployment in the country.

The respected Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the News24 website have projected that the party’s final vote will be around 42 percent, a big drop from the 57 percent it obtained in the 2019 election.

This would force it to go into a coalition with one or more of the other parties in order to form a majority in parliament.

The DA has liberal economic policies, while both the EFF and MK favour more state intervention and nationalisation, so the choice of partner would make a huge difference to South Africa’s future direction.

It is unclear whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will remain in power, as he could come under pressure from the ANC to resign if the party gets less than 45 percent of the final vote, said Professor William Gumede, chairman of the non-profit Democracy Works Foundation.

“The ANC could turn him into a scapegoat, and a faction within the party could push for him to be replaced by his deputy, Paul Mashatile. The EFF and MK are also likely to demand his resignation before agreeing to any coalition with the ANC,” Prof Gumede told the BBC.

Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wear t-shirts with the face of President of the ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during the ANC's last rally at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on May 25, 2024, ahead of the South African elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

South Africans do not directly vote for a president. Instead, they vote for members of parliament who will then go on to elect the president.

The initial results showed that the ANC was suffering heavy losses to MK, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma’s party has been leading with 43 percent of the vote to the ANC’s 21 percent.

Zuma caused a major shock when he announced in December that he was ditching the ANC to campaign for MK.

KwaZulu-Natal is the home region of Zuma, and the province with the second-highest number of votes, making it crucial in determining whether the ANC retains its parliamentary majority.

Although Zuma has been barred from running for parliament because of a conviction for contempt of court, his name still appeared on the ballot paper as MK leader.

If MK wins KwaZulu-Natal, it would be a “major upset” and herald the “potential decimation” of the ANC in the province, Prof Gumede said.

The ANC also risks losing its majority in the economic heartland of Gauteng, where the party currently has 36 percent to the DA’s 29 percent.

Wednesday’s election saw long lines of voters outside polling stations late into the night across the country.

According to the electoral commission, the last polling station closed at 3am on Thursday morning local time.

People queue after dark to cast their votes at a polling station in Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. South Africans voted Wednesday at schools, community centers, and in large white tents set up in open fields in an election seen as their country’s most important since apartheid ended 30 years ago. It could put the young democracy into unknown territory. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

One electoral official in Johannesburg told the BBC the queues were reminiscent of the historic 1994 election, when black people could vote for the first time.

Sifiso Buthelezi, who voted in Johannesburg’s Joubert Park – the biggest polling station in South Africa – told the BBC: “Freedom is great but we need to tackle corruption.”

Change has been a recurring sentiment, especially among young voters.

“The turnout amongst them was high, and they voted against the ANC,” Prof Gumede said.

Ayanda Hlekwane, one of South Africa’s “born-free” generation, meaning he was born after 1994, said despite having three degrees he still did not have a job.

“I’m working on my PhD proposal so that I go back to study in case I don’t get a job,” he told the BBC in Durban.

But Hlekwane said he was optimistic that things would change.

Support for the ANC was expected to be higher among the older generation.

One 89-year-old woman, Elayne Dykman, said she hoped that young people in South Africa did not take their vote for granted.

A record 70 parties and 11 independents were running, with South Africans voting for a new parliament and nine provincial legislatures.

The DA has signed a pact with 10 of them, agreeing to form a coalition government if they get enough votes to dislodge the ANC from power.

But this is highly unlikely, with the ANC expected to remain the biggest party, putting it in pole position to lead a coalition.

Additional reporting by Anne Soy in Durban


According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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