South Africa goes to the polls

2011-05-18 07:18

Cape Town - South Africa votes Wednesday in a local polls test for the ruling party after a frenzied campaign to woo disillusioned voters that has evoked God and even frail icon Nelson Mandela's health.

The ruling ANC is set to decisively repeat its run of sweeping post-apartheid election victories, but the latest opinion poll predicts the party's support will weaken in the face of growing anger over its performance.

An Ipsos Markinor survey of 2 050 voters tips the ANC to win 58.9%, down seven points from the 2006 local polls, with the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) set to make gains to take just under one fifth of the ballots.

"It is a test in the sense that people are very irritated with the ANC, particularly poor communities in their own base," said University of Johannesburg analyst Adam Habib. "The question is what does their base do?"

Twelve hours of voting began at 07:00 at 20 868 polling stations countrywide after months of politicians scrambling to woo new voters and retain traditional support bases 17 years after the first all-race vote.

'Symbolic slap in the face'

President Jacob Zuma's ANC has easily won each election since 1994 backed by the loyal black majority which comprises 79% of the population.

The party controls all major cities except Cape Town, which it lost five years ago to the DA led by Helen Zille, who has called on voters elsewhere to put her party's track-record to the test.

The ANC lost ground in eight out of nine provinces in 2009 general polls and Habib warned that if the trend continued "they could easily lose a number of significant metropoles which would be a symbolic slap in the face".

Derided as white and elitist, Zille has danced and sang at rallies to urge people to choose service delivery over race, while the ANC has used its rich anti-apartheid history and promised to beef up weak areas.

But the party's liberation credentials have been tarnished by corruption and growing anger at local government, from flawed billing systems in wealthier neighbourhoods to widening inequality and joblessness faced by the poor.

Violent demonstrations have exploded in poor areas with major protests rocketing from just 10 in 2004 to 111 last year, according to research group Municipal IQ.

"There's a disconnect between politicians and citizens," said University of the Western Cape analyst Cherrel Africa. "It's actually quite understandable the frustration that many people feel."

Voter turnout

But a polls dip for the ANC would be due to high levels of disillusionment that will see people stay away, rather than a shift in South African politics, she said.

"That slippage, it's more abstention than actually change of allegiance."

The previous local polls in 2006 only drew a 48% turnout but Idasa executive director Paul Graham said greater competition could prompt more interest.

"It looks like people are more keen this time," said Graham. "Where there's a contest, people turn out, that's the general theory."

ANC leaders have threatened ancestral wrath, warned that an opposition vote was one for the devil, dubbed Zille a "madam" and said a non-ANC ballot will worsen Mandela's health.

But the lead up to Wednesday's vote has been the most peaceful yet in post-apartheid South Africa, according to the country's Election Monitoring Network.

  • objective1 - 2011-05-18 07:30

    A National Catastrophe - The people's party (the fat cats that is and the kind where you drink expensive whiskey and eat expensive food for free)

  • REVO - 2011-05-18 07:42

    Corruption free, Go on DA!!

  • CorneN - 2011-05-18 07:46

    Go vote people!

  • Hannes - 2011-05-18 08:29

    Hansie: "Go vote people!" As long it is for the DA

  • Mnumzane - 2011-05-18 09:21

    Let us give ANC what it deserve today. Viva ANC Viva.

      D.R.A.K.K - 2011-05-18 10:08

      YES! I agree Mnumzane, a good fat slap in the face - Don't vote for them!

  • Scott - 2011-05-18 11:53

    I am writing from Australia to give a different perspective. Until recently, the State of New South Wales was led by an ALP (nominally socialist/worker's party) since 1995 (and the ANC, coincidentally, has been in since 1994). After winning the Sydney Olympics, everything went downhill badly - politicians began to act as though they owned their seats, and that the people were lucky to have them. In the meantime they did nothing but fill their own pockets, secure jobs for their friends, and cause any number of scandals ranging from sexual abuse through to drug use. This was only possible because the Liberal (conservative) Opposition was so weak and divided. However, since 2007 the Liberals finally got their act together, and were able to outline positive policies, and hammer the ALP on the endless corruption that occured. The result in the 2011 election was that areas which had been held by Labour for over 100years voted for the Opposition in large numbers - and a 17% swing was recorded across NSW. No government in a democracy will stay fresh or focused upon people's problems without a strong Opposition to bite them when they spend too much, or propose ridiculous ideas. I ask South Africans to keep this in mind as they vote today.

  • pages:
  • 1