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It’s a co-incidence that the leaders of the two largest opposition political parties are 34 years old. But there’s complete logic in the way that the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and EFF’s Julius Malema have been able to galvanise support and lead at an age where most politicians are working through the ranks. The ruling ANC’s empty promises are coming back to haunt it. It is being undone by an obsession with cadre deployment and centralisation of power, obvious drivers for the corruption now perceived as endemic within the party. With ANC leader Jacob Zuma refusing to take responsibility for squandering the public purse, as the Bloomberg piece below describes, the 73 year old has become the lightning rod for the frustration of millions in this young democracy. The DA is growing increasingly confident of winning three more big metros next year, adding to its Cape Town foothold. From that point, the next prize is obvious. – Alec Hogg
By Amogelang Mbatha and Lutho Mtongana
(Bloomberg) — Mpho Magoro left her young daughter in her rural hometown five months ago to seek work in the urban sprawl of a Johannesburg township. With many residents in the area still living in shacks without sanitation, she says her life isn’t any better.
For 24-year-old Magoro and many others in Alexandra township, located on the outskirts of Johannesburg’s financial center, the ruling African National Congress has failed to live up to its ideals when it took power 21 years ago: too many still don’t have jobs, houses nor enough income to lift them out of poverty.
“The ANC government has failed to improve the living conditions of the people living here in Alexandra,” Magoro, a single mother, said as she sat outside a furniture store on a bustling main road. “I don’t think I’ll vote for the ANC. We are still using the bucket system for toilets.”
Disillusionment with the ruling party is echoed across townships as voters become more fed up with joblessness, inequality and corruption scandals that continue to taint senior ANC officials, including President Jacob Zuma.
Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters, are galvanizing support in cities where they think the ANC is most at risk of losing backing in next year’s municipal election: Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.
The vote “will be a major challenge for the ANC because they are really going to have to defend their position and the councils that they control,” Dirk Kotze, a professor in the department of political science at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, said by phone on May 8. “The DA has developed new momentum and the EFF is also competing for votes.”
The 103-year-old ANC has won every election since the first multiracial one in 1994 with more than 60 percent of the ballots cast. Last year, its support slid to 62.2 percent in the national election from 65.9 percent five years ago and a peak of 69.7 percent in 2004.
The party’s biggest losses last year came in Gauteng, the richest province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, where support tumbled by more than 10 percentage points to 53.6 percent.
Opposition parties are seeking to exploit voters’ disappointment with the ANC in next year’s vote. The DA, the biggest of the groups that won 22 percent of the vote last year, elected its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, on Sunday to broaden its appeal in a country where 80 percent of the population is black and mostly vote for the ANC.
Maimane, 34, said in his acceptance speech that the DA is seeking wins in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth in the municipal elections, while retaining control in Cape Town.
“No political party has the divine right to rule this country,” Maimane told DA members in Port Elizabeth. “We can make historical gains in the local elections next year.”
Julius Malema, 34, propelled the EFF to become the second- biggest opposition party less than a year after it was formed in 2013 following his expulsion from the ANC. He said in an interview in January that he’s seeking to join forces with South Africa’s biggest labor union, which dropped its support for the ANC last year and plans to form a workers’ party to participate in elections.
Zuma, 73, has been a lightning rod for voters’ discontent and the economy’s sluggish performance. He is facing calls from opposition groups to repay part of the 215 million-rand ($18 million) in public funds used for renovations at his private home in Nkandla, in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
Parliament has been disrupted several times since Zuma took office for a second term in May 2014 as EFF and DA lawmakers seek answers from him.
“There is no change and there never will be until Zuma’s term ends,” Ignitius Matimela, a 54-year-old minibus taxi driver, said in an interview in Alexandra. “The government is the ANC and they’ve got an advantage. It’s not that I hate them, just don’t give them too much power because they abuse it. I definitely have to vote for another party, just to try and neutralize them.”
South Africa’s economic progress since the 2009 recession has been patchy. After rebounding for two years, growth slowed to 1.5 percent in 2014, the unemployment rate hasn’t budged from 24 percent and the rand has plunged 14 percent in the past year against the dollar. Mines and factories that were forced to shut for several weeks due to strikes in 2014 are still curbing production because of power shortages.
Anger at a lack of jobs spilled over into attacks on mainly African migrants and a looting of their shops in townships around Johannesburg and Durban this year. At least 13 people have been killed since January and thousands displaced in the worst anti-foreigner violence since 2008.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said by phone on April 30 that employment creation isn’t the government’s job and the state can only provide an enabling environment for businesses to operate and hire more people.
The ANC still enjoys support because of its role in ending apartheid, providing access to education and housing for black South Africans and paying welfare grants to 16.6 million of the nation’s 54 million population. While that’s likely to help the ruling party maintain its majority in forthcoming elections, the ANC’s biggest challenge will probably be voter apathy, according to Ebrahim Fakir, a political analyst at the Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.
For Priscilla Malope, a 69-year-old pensioner who supports her unemployed children and grandchildren, the source of tension fueling xenophobic violence is clear: pent-up anger with joblessness, loose regulations governing immigrants owning informal businesses and poor delivery of services, such as sanitation and water.
“The ANC is failing us,” she said as she walked to the train station in Alexandra. “People have reached a stage where they cannot contain their frustrations anymore because they can see government is not doing anything to help them.”
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.