South Africa will hold parliamentary and provincial elections tomorrow, amid frustration with a lack of progress 25 years after the African National Congress (ANC) swept to power at the end of white minority rule.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as ANC leader in December 2017, is trying to restore faith in the governing party after a torrid decade under Zuma during which its image suffered.
The ANC has won every parliamentary election since 1994 but saw its share of the vote fall from a high of more than 69 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in 2014, as economic growth faltered and corruption scandals multiplied. It is expected to secure another parliamentary majority this week, but analysts predict that majority could fall, despite Ramaphosa’s efforts to clean up the party’s image.
Here are some of the key issues at the elections: Land: Land is a highly emotive issue in South Africa, where the bulk of productive agricultural land has remained in white hands since the end of apartheid in 1994. A farm industry group and government argue over exactly how much land is in black hands. That land was forcibly taken from black people during the colonial and apartheid eras.
Corruption: Years of corruption scandals implicating senior party officials and government ministers have sullied the ANC’s reputation and could prove costly on May 8 as opposition parties target malfeasance as a key pillar of their election campaigns.
Unemployment: South Africa has some of the worst unemployment levels among major emerging market economies, trapping millions of people in poverty and spurring violent protests. Around 27 percent of South Africans were unemployed in the fourth quarter last year, according to a narrow definition of unemployment. Among young black South Africans the jobless rate is one in two. The three main political parties have all put job creation at the heart of their campaigns.
Weak growth: South Africa’s economic growth has slowed sharply in recent years, stretching public finances and sparking fierce disagreements over the direction of economic policy.
In the decade before the global financial crisis, gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged around 4 percent. But in the past decade it slowed to below 2 percent, which is insufficient to make a meaningful dent in poverty and is among the lowest among emerging markets.
Power crisis: Trust in state electricity firm Eskom among ordinary South Africans and investors is low as it struggles to keep the lights on and grapples with a severe financial crisis. The past year has seen regular bouts of “load-shedding,” a local term for scheduled power cuts, for the first time since 2015 as Eskom has faced recurring problems at its creaking fleet of coal-fired power stations.