Helena Lyng Blak
2 weeks ago

Is This The End of ANC, Nelson Mandela’s Party’s, Rule? South Africa Heads To The Polls

South Africans vote in what may prove to be a historic general election.
Photo by gioiak2
Photo by gioiak2

On Wednesday, May 29, 2024, South Africa is holding its general election—and this one may be one for the history books. 

South Africans will elect a new National Assembly, which is the lower house of the South African Parliament, as well as the provincial legislature, which are the regional governments of the country’s nine provinces who are represented by the upper house.

Since the first post-apartheid election 30 years ago, in 1994, the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, has confidently won the majority in every election. 

However, this year, the election results are looking much less certain.

The Long, Uninterrupted Success of the ANC

Back in 1994, South Africa saw an impressive voter turnout of 86.87%, and the ANC secured 62.50% of the vote, thereby choosing Nelson Mandela to be the country’s first president elected under universal adult suffrage. 

In 1999, both voter turnout and the ANC majority rose, with the former reaching 89.30% and the latter 66.36%.

Ever since, however, voter turnout has been slowly declining. In the following election of 2004, the ANC would peak receiving 69.69% of the vote, but since then, the party, too, has been on a steady decline, dropping to 65.90% in 2009 and 62.15% in 2014. 

In the latest election, in 2019, the voter turnout tumbled to 66.05%, and the ANC to 57.50%. 

And now, according to Reuters, polls leading up to today’s election have shown the ANC receiving just 42% of the vote. 

So, what happened?

Crime, Unemployment, and Inequality

According to the World Bank, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Its inequality in per capita consumption is approximately 50% higher than the average for an upper-middle-income country, with race still playing a significant role.

Also contributing to the country’s inequality are the nation’s strikingly high and persistently increasing unemployment rates. 

According to data from Trading Economics, the South African unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2024 was 32.90%, up 0.80% from the last quarter of 2023. By comparsion, the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2014 was 25.20%.

Lastly, a major issue that the South African government and its people face is the rising rates of crime. According to data from the World Bank and South African Police Service collected by CNN, serious and violent crimes have steadily increased since 2014, and fairly drastically leaped in the years after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Carjackings, for one, have more than doubled in a decade. The incident rate per 100,000 residents increased from 37 in January 2020 to 51 in January 2022, and attempted murders rose from 35 to 47 in that same period. In 2022 to 2023, kidnapping cases increased by 42.7%.

Voter Turnout Declining

Additionally, South Africa faces the notable democratic challenge of a dropping voter turnout. 

In 2021, researchers from the University of Johannesburg, Carin Runciman and Martin Bekker, investigated why. 

They conducted 3,905 telephone interviews, speaking to both voters and non-voters in five metropolitan municipalities concerning the 2019 national elections, and the 2021 and 2016 local elections, ultimately publishing their conclusions in The Conversation.

What they found is that among the key reasons South Africans do not vote are: lack of political alignment, disillusionment with the political system, and complaints of poor service and corruption. But the most common reasons were barriers, either individual or administrative. 

According to the researchers, 34% of interviewed non-voters reported being unable to vote due to not being registered in the voting district they were in on election day, being at work, or being otherwise too busy.

Additionally, 22% responded that they had been held back by administrative barriers, such as not having an ID. About a quarter of the 22% reported having tried to vote, but were unable to due to issues at the voting station.

“I am frustrated”

This year, rumors have been circulating that people with fake or manicured nails would not be allowed to vote. That is a myth. 

Despite this, some social media users have already reported being turned away at voting stations. 

Others complain about hours spent in line, having to leave before voting or risk being late for work, and yet more describe having been unable to register to vote in the province they are currently in after moving or relocating. 

“I'm so sad for the many workers I'm meeting here in town,” said Times LIVE journalist Zimasa Matiwane on X. “People registered somewhere but life put them elsewhere today.”

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