Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
Our southern neighbour, South Africa goes to the polls today May 8 for the country’s sixth democratic elections 25 years after the end of apartheid rule in 1994 that favoured the white minority over the black majority when it became the official government policy in 1948.
Just like any colonial government, apartheid governed all aspects of life, restricting non-whites to unskilled jobs and inferior education, services and living conditions. Whites controlled politics, the economy and the land.
The system was dismantled nearly five decades later, after a long and bitter struggle, its demise sealed by the April 1994 elections in which blacks were able to vote for the first time.
However, 25 years after the end of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world and is held back by high levels of corruption and crime.
This election could pose the toughest challenge for the ruling African National Congress as it comes at a time Africa’s biggest economy is facing a wave of xenophobic attacks, coupled with high rates of unemployment and poverty.
This has put the immigration on the front burner of the 2019 polls. Whoever wins will have to find lasting solution to these challenges.
The African National Congress (ANC) is Africa’s oldest nationalist party. It has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, winning every election since then.
South Africa and Zimbabwe enjoy cordial relations. Despite this, concerns over xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans have tended to cast a dark cloud on the relations at times.
Zimbabwe played a key role in the struggle against apartheid in both South Africa and Namibia during the Frontline States years. The country campaigned vigorously against the apartheid regime and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa.
South Africa too, after gaining independence in 1994, has always rallied behind Zimbabwe when it came to sanctions imposed by Western countries. During his visit to Zimbabwe early this year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the lifting of sanctions against the country. At the height of the economic crisis in the 2007-2009 period, South African President Thabo Mbeki mediated in the talks between the MDC and ZANU–PF to form a unity Government.
Given all these historical ties, elections in South Africa are not in any manner detached from Zimbabwe’s social, economic and political issues.
A significant population of Zimbabweans live in South Africa, making up the largest group of foreign migrants — with estimates ranging from one to five million.
A number of Zimbabweans working in South Africa have encountered xenophobic attacks in the recent past. Most of the Zimbabweans working inside that country want the incoming president to address this problem after today’s polls.
No one can deny that xenophobic attacks are caused by populist and nationalist rhetoric put forward by world leaders such as the United States President Donald Trump.
Trump has made headlines through his so called immigration policies that have criminalised people from foreign lands under the scapegoat of protecting American citizens and giving them better opportunities.
Reports from South Africa indicate that almost 50 parties have fielded candidates for today’s elections and expectations are high that the ruling ANC will almost certainly win another majority.
“The African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994, will almost certainly win another majority, and its leader Cyril Ramaphosa will, therefore, continue as president, the office he has held since 2018, when his predecessor Jacob Zuma, resigned,” wrote Jason Burke of The Guardian.
He added: “Almost 50 parties will compete for the favour of 26,8 million eligible voters. The ANC is predicted to gain somewhere between 54 percent and 61 percent of the vote. The Democratic Alliance, a centre-right party with a power base in the west, could win as much as 22 percent. The populist far-left Economic Freedom Fighters are expected to take about 10 percent.”
Even though the ANC is still popular with the masses, public disillusionment around corruption, unemployment, crime and the economy has eroded part of its support.
Although there might be a number of political parties contesting, the ANC is just battling it out with two main opposition parties — Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by firebrand Julius Malema — who advocates for a radical transformation of the economy to benefit the black majority, and the centrist Democratic Alliance led by Mmusi Maimane, which is supported by white remnants of apartheid.
Despite the stiff competition that Ramaphosa is likely to get, he will emerge the ultimate winner, with political analysts agreeing that the black majority mostly backs the African National Congress which has ruled since the fall of apartheid in 1994.
Most white voters choose the opposition Democratic Alliance, whose power is strongest in the Western Cape Province.
The whole SADC region is rallying behind the ANC.
ANC has received overwhelming support from fellow liberation movement and governing parties in the entire SADC region.
The parties that expressed solidarity with the ANC include the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Lesotho’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Namibia’s South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and ZANU-PF.
Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity Cde Simon Khaya Moyo said ANC is poised for victory.
“The ANC could be heading for a victory and the rally was a huge success, sending a clear message of dominance. The atmosphere around is calm and peaceful,” he said.
A win by the ANC is a victory for liberation movements in Southern Africa battling against western sponsored imperialism.
It will certainly reaffirm the dominance of former liberation movements in southern African politics and governance.
The majority of the countries in southern Africa are rallying behind the political parties that led them to independence, with few exceptions.
Liberation parties such as the ANC, Zanu PF, Swapo, Frelimo and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Tanzania continue to dominate the political landscape in their countries.
The CCM is the longest serving party, having led Tanganyika to independence as the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in December 1961, and changing its name after Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form the United Republic of Tanzania on 26 April 1964.