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South Africans election ANC faces test

Hauwa Mustapha

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South Africans has started voting on Monday in municipal elections, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) facing discontent over poor services and stark inequality 27 years after ending white minority rule.

The ANC’s rise to power in 1994 drew a line under centuries of racist oppression of the country’s majority Blacks by the descendants of white settlers.

Critics say the liberators have proved less effective at more mundane tasks like fixing drains, supplying clean water and keeping the lights on.

Failures to maintain roads, sewerage treatment plants and creaking coal-fired power stations could cost the legacy party of late liberation hero Nelson Mandela.

Analysts expect its vote share to fall below 50% for the first time, from 54% in the last local polls, itself the ANC’s worst outcome yet.

Polls opened at 0500 GMT and are scheduled to close at 1900 GMT. “I have been very much loyal (to the ANC) for so many years because there were improvements but it’s not enough.

Much could have been done,” he said, adding he was changing his party of choice for the first time.

The ANC seeks to win back metropolitan areas it lost to opposition-led coalitions in 2016, including the respective political and commercial capitals, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

“We need the government to build houses, water facilities, electricity,” said a 36-year old male who identified himself only as Richard, as he waited to cast his vote at a polling station in Diepsloot township. “We need a government that really works for people.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who remains popular, promised on the campaign trail to make service delivery a priority.

ANC defenders say reversing decades of apartheid-era neglect in Black neighbourhoods was never going to be a quick fix.

“I’m here to vote for the ANC. There is a saying that it’s better the devil that you know than the one that you don’t know,” said Nkateko Maranele, a 26-year old student.

Ramaphosa also won praise for mobilising government grants that prevented COVID-19 economic woes becoming a hunger crisis.

His party has been dogged by corruption scandals and faces criticism over some of the world’s highest recorded unemployment, with a third of the population out of work.

Analysts said getting less than half the vote would be a psychological blow, and would raise the previously unthinkable possibility that the ANC could one day be in opposition.

That still seems a way off, its main rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has struggled to shed its image as a party of white privilege, and it suffered a backlash in October from a divisive poster campaign addressing racial tensions between ethnic Indian and Black communities.

Other parties include the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) a Marxist group of former ANC youth leader Julius Malema and ActionSA, a moderate, pragmatic newcomer led by former DA Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Reuters

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