All set for South African elections

SANF 19 no 13
All is set for national and provincial elections in South Africa whose outcome is likely to be determined by which political party had a message that resonated well with the aspirations of an electorate keen to see solutions to alleged corruption, service delivery challenges and the emotive land redistribution question.

More than 26.7 million South Africans will vote on 8 May in the eagerly awaited sixth elections since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Election campaigning ended on 5 May, with the main political parties having one final push in their quest to outdo one another in the race for voters.

At the core of the campaigns were promises by the 48 contesting political parties on how they intended to tackle the challenges of corruption, service delivery and inequality.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) led by President Cyril Ramaphosa took a message to the electorate that it is the only party with voter interests at heart, having led them to victory against the apartheid system 25 years ago.

Ramaphosa used the final ANC campaign rally in Johannesburg on 5 May to apologise for the “mistakes and missteps” of the party and its members.

He appealed to the electorate to trust the party with their votes, saying no other party deserves to lead the country.

“You have told us where service delivery has failed, where infrastructure has not been maintained, where people with authority and responsibility have stolen money. You are frustrated at the slow rate of economic growth and the grinding effects of poverty and unemployment,” Ramaphosa said, promising to take action to address the challenges faced by South Africans.

Opposition parties have taken advantages of the allegations of high-level corruption by ANC cadres in government to try and win over voters from the ruling party.

The highly publicised “state capture” allegations levelled against top ANC officials, including former President Jacob Zuma, have been cannon fodder on the opposition campaign trail.

These allegations involve systemic political corruption in which private interests were said to have significantly influenced decision-making processes to the advantage of a few individuals.

Both the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which are seen as the main challengers to the ANC in the 2019 elections, have used the state capture allegations to discredit the ANC as a party that does not have the interests of the people at heart.

However, the EFF agrees with the ANC on the need to expropriate land from white farmers without compensation, a move criticised by the DA which fears this would affect the economy.

The only difference between the ANC and EFF with regards to the land question is that whereas the ruling party prefers to allow due processes to take place, the opposition party is advocating for the forcible removal of white farmers from their properties.

The parties went out of their way to win the hearts of South Africans, particularly the first time voters, the generation born after 1994 and popularly known as “born frees”.

Young people are seen as a critical constituency and their concerns are whether they will find jobs as well as how to combat corruption and improvement in service delivery.

Inequality remains, too. On average, a white household earns six times as much as a black one.

The government has used state welfare programmes to try to close the inequality gap. The proportion of the population that accessed social grants almost doubled to 25 percent in 2010, up from only 13 percent in 2002.

As a result of the inequality, crime is high. There is high rate of rape, murder and hijacking of vehicles.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), more than 26.7 million eligible voters had by February registered to vote in the national and provincial elections, out of a total population counted at 52 million in the 2011 census.

There are 22,924 polling stations that have been established across South Africa.

South Africa uses a system of Proportional Representation in which the electorate votes for a political party, not individuals. The political party gets a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes won in the election.

Each registered political party submits a list of candidates to the IEC in advance of the election, and the IEC determines the number of seats for each party based on the election results.

The parties have submitted a total of 10,000 candidates on the National Assembly party lists for the elections this year.

Half of the 400 seats in the National Assembly are elected from a single national constituency, while the nine provinces function as nine constituencies for election of the other half.

The President is elected by the new National Assembly from among its members, usually the leader of the majority party. The candidate resigns from parliament upon election as president, and becomes the head of state and government and commander-in-chief of the defence forces.

The nine provincial legislatures have between 30 and 80 members each depending on the size of the province, and these are elected on a separate ballot. Each legislature then elects 10 members to the National Council of Provinces.

For the 2019 elections, names of 8,000 candidates have been submitted on the Provincial Assembly party lists.

South African national elections follow a five-year cycle, and the ANC has won all national elections since the agreement to end apartheid in 1994.

The 2019 elections have attracted a lot of international interest, with a number of foreign observers already deployed their missions.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched a 48-member election observer mission led by Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister, Joseph Malanji.

Malanji said the observers would be deployed to all the nine provinces of South Africa to ensure there is adequate coverage of the whole country.’

He urged all stakeholders to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible manner.

“We look forward to an electoral process that adheres to democratic values and principles envisioned in our SADC Treaty, the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation; and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” Malanji said.

SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the elections should further contribute to the strengthening of democracy in South Africa and the rest of the SADC region.

She said as per tradition, the SADC Election Observation Mission (SEOM) will observe the elections in phases: the pre-election period, election-day and post-election phases.

The SEOM is expected to produce reports on the conduct of the polls. This is in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourage Member States to promote common political values and systems.

Other observers that have been deployed are from the African Union and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985.      Email sanf[at]     

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