Expectant mood as South Africans vote

SANF 19 no 14 – by Munyaradzi Makoni
South Africans turned out in large numbers on 8 May to cast their ballots in eagerly awaited national and provincial elections, the sixth since the fall of apartheid 25 years ago.

An expectant mood engulfed the country as a sizeable proportion of the 26.7 million registered voters turned out in droves to vote in polls to elect members of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

Queues began to form outside some of the 22,924 polling stations dotted across the country as early as 4am. The polling stations officially opened at 7am and voting was expected to end at 9pm when counting would start.

Results are expected to start trickling in on Thursday while the winner will be declared on Saturday.

The party that wins most seats in parliament selects the president, who will be sworn in on May 25.

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 48 contesting political 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.

Some of the main political parties contesting the elections are the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Congress of the People and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

The ANC has won every national election since the demise of apartheid in 1994 but but has lost some support over the past few years following gains by the DA and EFF in the last elections held in May 2014.

The ANC garnered 62.1 percent of the popular vote during the last elections, which was slightly lower than the 65.9 percent it got in the previous poll five years earlier.

The DA was a distant second, with 22.2 percent of the popular vote. This was an improvement on the 16.7 percent the party got in 2009.

The EFF, which was less than a year old when the 2014 elections took place, got about 6.4 percent.

Aware of the risk of a further decline in its support base, the ANC has this year sought to rekindle the spirit of being the party for the people.

During election campaigning, which ended on 5 May, ANC leader, 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.

He appealed to the electorate to forgive the ANC for the “mistakes and missteps” of the party and its members, and pledged to address poverty and unemployment.

Wednesday’s vote comes 25 years after the end of apartheid. But despite the demise of the system of racial discrimination, the country remains divided by economic inequality.

Cognisant of the criticism that the ANC has failed to adequately address the issue of rampant inequality between black and white South Africans, Ramaphosa has also promised to expropriate land from white farmers without compensation.

According to Agriculture South Africa, white farmers owned about 73 percent of all arable land in the country as of 2016, slight down from more than 85 percent at the end of apartheid in 1994.

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 difference between the ANC and EFF concerning the land question is that the opposition party is advocating the forced removal of white farmers, while the ANC prefers to allow due processes to take place.

Opposition parties have also taken advantage 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. sardc.net

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]sardc.net     

Website and Virtual Library for Southern Africa     www.sardc.net  Knowledge for Development