South Africa’s Elections Could Bring the Biggest Political Shift Since Democracy in 1994


As South Africans prepare to cast their votes come Wednesday, spectators are optimistic and say that this could be their most significant political event since apartheid was abolished and democracy was established 30 years ago.


Although the coming election may not carry the same historic weight as the pivotal 1994 election, where Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) triumphed, it is still a crucial one regardless. The ANC, which led South Africa to freedom, is now facing mounting discontent as a result of persistent issues like high unemployment and poverty.


“Thirty years of South African democracy does not mean we should endure an eternity under the ANC,” said John Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party.


Several polls suggest that ANC’s support is below 50%, which already indicates a potential loss of its majority for the first time, no single opposition party seems poised to overtake it, but if the ANC falls short of an outright majority, it will most likely have to form alliances to maintain governance and reelect President Cyril Ramaphosa.


Over the years, the ANC’s electoral dominance has waned due to socioeconomic challenges and corruption scandals. Violent crime, inadequate government services, and, most notably, high unemployment rates, especially among the youth, have all contributed to public frustration.


The rate of unemployment in South Africa currently stands as the world’s worst at 32%, soaring to 45% among young people aged 15 to 34. This reality is a contrast with the nation’s status as Africa’s most developed economy.


During the election campaigns, Ramaphosa and the ANC pledged to address these challenges, emphasising on job creation and social support programs. Despite the electoral vulnerabilities, ANC is still a formidable force with an effective grassroots campaign and traditional support from older and rural South Africans.


This election will no doubt shape the composition of the National Parliament and provincial legislatures, with over 50 parties competing.


As the nation heads to the polls, the disillusion coming from the younger generation who didn’t experience apartheid firsthand, is a major issue, because although they are well aware of their nation’s history, many young South Africans still question the ANC’s ability to deliver on its promises made during the post-apartheid era.

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