South Africa loses faith with the ANC

Poor blacks are disillusioned with the party that ended apartheid 18 years ago, promising a better life for all

Khutsong

The party that ended apartheid is losing its appeal among black South Africans, many of whom have grown frustrated waiting for the "better life for all" promised when the African National Congress won the historic multiracial elections 18 years ago.

The disenchantment with the ANC has been building gradually over the years. But it has intensified in recent weeks amid the ongoing, and often violent, labour unrest that has spread across the nation since the police killed 34 strikers at a platinum mine in August. It was the deadliest police action so far in post-apartheid South Africa.

In newspaper columns, on radio talk shows, blogs and social media, the ANC is facing a public outcry, accused of corruption, being ineffective, wasteful and out of touch with South Africa's impoverished masses. Even prominent anti-apartheid figures are publicly disparaging the ANC leadership, calling its credibility into question. Meanwhile, other critics, including senior ANC leaders, claim the party is divided and facing a crisis of leadership, as President Jacob Zuma battles allegations of misuse of public funds to renovate his private residence.

"Now, the honeymoon is pretty much over," said Robert Schrire, a political analyst at the University of Cape Town. "What we are seeing is that the average black South African is no longer blindly loyal to the ANC, but feels angry and betrayed."

When Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president in 1994, there was a burst of hope that a new era of equality was on the horizon. The ANC promised sweeping social change to redress the inequalities forged under apartheid, which oppressed non-whites through a system of racial separation enforced by harsh laws and police brutality to ensure the supremacy of white South Africans.

But for many black South Africans, the initial excitement has turned to disappointment, as they struggle with high unemployment and a lack of housing, education, clean water and other services.

No one is suggesting that the ANC will lose its dominance over South Africa's political landscape any time soon. Sikhulu Ndwandwe, 33, a social worker, and his family have been waiting for 16 years for a house, and they don't expect to get one soon. Their only source of electricity is an illegal hookup.

At the same time, Mr Ndwandwe knows there are few alternatives. Since 1994, the ANC has overwhelmingly won every election and now controls two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. But the anger and disillusionment, if they continue to grow, could trigger more protests and violence, potentially destabilising the continent's largest economy. Already, the number of violent protests this year, mostly over land, housing or services, has grown dramatically from previous years.

As many as 80,000 miners, or 16 per cent of the mining sector's workforce, are believed to be on strike, demanding better pay and benefits. Thousands more have already been fired. Meanwhile, thousands of truckers have also staged strikes, threatening supplies of fuel and food. South Africa's credit rating has been downgraded, mining stocks have plunged and the rand has weakened. Foreign investors are apprehensive.

In Khutsong, a black township surrounded by gold mines 56 miles west of Johannesburg, many residents live in shack settlements, where electricity is illegally procured and water hauled from outside taps shared by many families. Public toilets are so filthy that some residents prefer buckets or holes.

Bafana Mashata grew up worshipping the ANC's leaders. In school, he learned how Mr Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other anti-apartheid stalwarts ended white rule. But he deplores the ANC leaders who now run his nation. "Mandela and our other heroes fought for our freedom," said Mr Mashata, standing outside his uncle's tin shack, which has no electricity or running water. "But our leaders now sitting on top of the chair don't care about us, only about themselves."

There has been progress. The black middle class, fuelled by affirmative-action policies, has grown in this nation of more than 50 million. In a report released in September, the South African Institute of Race Relations found that those with access to electricity reached 11.9 million in 2010, up from 5.2 million in 1996. Over the same period, the number of families with proper housing nearly doubled to 11 million and those with access to piped water increased to 12.7 million from 7.2 million.

Still, government figures show that about a quarter of South Africans lack proper housing, nearly a quarter have no electricity and nearly a fifth no proper sanitation. The government, its critics say, has a pitiful record in providing education, leading to shortages of skills; now, a quarter of the population is unemployed, up from 20 per cent in 1994.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has widened, creating one of the world's most unequal societies, says the World Bank. Today, whites still largely control South Africa's economy, and earn six times more than blacks, according to census data released last week.

The anger in the streets started mounting long before the miners' strikes. In the first seven months of the year, residents of black townships staged dozens of demonstrations, according to Municipal IQ, an independent research group that focuses on local government. There have been more protests than in any year since 2004, when the group started its monitoring.

"The fact is that there is a deep and growing mistrust of leaders in our country, and the expanding underclass feels it has no voice through legitimate formal structures," Jay Naidoo, a former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and senior ANC leader, wrote on his blog. "Violence becomes the only viable language." South Africa's leaders, he added, are failing those who sacrificed their lives to end apartheid.

When President Zuma was elected in 2009, many thought his populist zeal would translate into more help for South Africa's poor. But he quickly became entangled in scandal after scandal. Today, he is facing an official investigation and public rage over plans to upgrade his private homestead in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal province, at a cost of $27m to taxpayers. The renovations reportedly include a helipad, underground parking, playgrounds, and even a medical clinic.

According to local news reports, the cost dwarfs the amounts spent on the residences of previous presidents Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk. But Mr Zuma's aides insist he is personally paying for many of the upgrades.

Nevertheless, "Nkandlagate", as it is has been dubbed, has further eroded the credibility of the President and the ANC, say critics. Now, Mr Zuma, 70, is facing a battle for re-election as ANC president in December. Other ANC leaders are also viewed as out of touch, with some criticised for having ties to mining companies, driving luxury cars and using their political influence to become extremely wealthy.

The party's problems have provided an opening for Julius Malema, a controversial former ANC youth leader. Publicly attacking Mr Zuma, he has seized on the outrage over the miners' killings to rebuild his popularity since his expulsion from the ANC this year for hate speech, including calls to kill whites.

Some anti-apartheid stalwarts say the ANC has yet to make the transition from leading freedom fighters to leading a democratic nation. "I think we need to find a way of rediscovering the dreams that drove all of us to sacrifice so much," said Mamphela Ramphele, a prominent anti-apartheid activist and the partner of Steve Biko, the black consciousness leader killed in police custody in 1977. Biko, she said, "would be disappointed" at today's South Africa.

Washington Post

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?