The ANC inspires South Africa no longer. It must reform

Only 30 per cent of the "Born Frees" registered to vote

 

Share

It is a once-in-a-generation event, if that, for a nation to elect its Messiah. In 2008, Barack Obama was portrayed as something close for US voters. In 1994 in South Africa, Nelson Mandela truly was. But messiahs of the ballot box tend to have a fatal flaw. They come with a level of hope and expectation that may never be delivered.

Twenty years on, South Africa will again elect the African National Congress, the party of liberation, but for the first time, the liberator is not around, and times have changed. Even though the result is all but beyond doubt – President Jacob Zuma’s party will almost certainly again poll above 60 per cent – this may yet be the election where the ANC is forced to get real.

Two decades after apartheid, the party finds itself in charge of a failing education system, and an economy blighted by stubbornly high levels of unemployment. The rise of a black middle class cannot hide the poverty that remains in much of the country. Mr Zuma, once an inmate on Robben Island with Mr Mandela, can seemingly go nowhere without being roundly booed – not even his former friend’s memorial service.

This was the first time that members of South Africa’s “Born Free” generation – the name given to those born after 1994 – were eligible to vote, yet only around 30 per cent registered to do so. The familiar stories of electoral malpractice have surfaced but their impact on the result is minimal. Where voting allegiances have switched, for the most part it will have been between one small opposition party and another. The former ANC youth leader Julius Malema’s highly vocal and visible Economic Freedom Fighters party is likely to have polled less than a similar group, the Congress of the People, did last time around.

But even a few percentage points dropped for the ANC may ring alarm bells.  It cannot trade on its liberating reputation forever. Millions around the country want no more from their government than flushing toilets.

If President Zuma’s government continues to act largely in its own self-interest, rather than addressing voters’ needs, it has every reason to expect a more serious, worker-led threat to its electoral hegemony in five years’ time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?