Polls open in South Africa later Wednesday, May 8 as voters elect lawmakers in a process that will ultimately lead to the choosing of a president by the next National Assembly.
The vote is the sixth since the end of apartheid in 1994 and the adoption of democracy. On the same day, there will be elections for provincial legislatures across the country.
South Africa has nine provinces which are: Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, North West and Mpumalanga provinces.
This “SA elections hub” is part of our Africa Elections coverage of the election on-ground with our correspondent Daniel Mumbere and also on our different social media platforms.
The following areas are treated as you scroll down:
- The main issues underlying the vote
- Some top facts surrounding the vote
- History of the vote
- Special, diaspora voting
- Three main parties in the race
- The main candidates
- Voting process
- The election organizing body
The main issues underlying the vote
There are a number of issues likely to weigh strongly on today’s vote according to political and elections analysts: The land question and housing, corruption, education and jobs.
The issue of land has been topical through the years but more prominently this year when the expropriation of land engaged lawmakers in fierce exchanges.
As it stands now, the parliament voted to expropriate land without compensation with the ruling ANC and leftist EFF voting strongly in favour whiles the main opposition DA rejected the motion.
South Africa, one of the continent’s most industrialized nations, continues to suffer the scourge of corruption which was key in the move to oust former president Jacob Zuma ahead of the polls. There is currently a commission looking into high-level corruption under the Zuma administration.
Unemployment has been an issue which President Ramaphosa has pledged to actively combat in his first substantive term if the ANC gets the mandate to continue.
Top facts surrounding the polls
- The president is leader of the party with majority in parliament, himself a parliamentarian
- The South African consitution allows a candidate a maximum of two five-year terms.
- A record 48 parties are contesting in the national parliamentary election. 19 more parties than 2004.
- The Northern Cape has lowest number of provincial parties (21) and Gauteng has the highest (36).
- The organizing body is the Electoral Commission of South Africa, IEC.
- In South Africa, voters are to make an ‘x’ sign in a box close to their preferred party.
Background to the vote
There are 48 parties to choose from — more than at any election since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
The African National Congress (ANC) has won every parliamentary election since 1994, and opinion polls predict it will again win a majority of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
But President Cyril Ramaphosa is under pressure to reverse a slide in support for the ANC, which has seen its share of the parliamentary vote drop from a high of more than 69 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in 2014.
The ANC’s biggest rivals this time are main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical leftist group.
Parliamentary and provincial elections happen every five years, with seats allocated according to a proportional representation system.
Video: Special and diaspora voting:
Around 770, 000 South Africans were expected to cast their special vote between yesterday Monday and Tuesday (May 6 – 7), an opportunity that was approved by the electoral body to enable those who may be unable to cast their ballot on election day.
Preceding the special voting, people in the diaspora had been availed the opportunity to cast their ballots a week ahead of the main process back home.
South Africa is one of few African countries that allow registered citizens to express their democratic rights. Kenya and Rwanda also make provisions for same during their presidential polls.
Our reporter on the ground, Daniel Mumbere, gave a rundown of the process of special voting on The Morning Call.
The main parties and their respective leaders:
- Ruling AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, ANC
The ANC swept to power in 1994 under liberation hero Nelson Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after leading the fight against the brutal apartheid regime.
It has been the majority party in the National Assembly for the past 25 years and currently governs every province apart from the Western Cape.
Many black South Africans grew up associating the ANC with their dream of a country free from racial segregation and with equal access to jobs and education.
Although the ANC has achieved important successes by providing formal housing and basic services like electricity to many black families for the first time, the scale of the problems it inherited means change has been slow and many people today are impatient for more.
Under its previous leader, former president Jacob Zuma, whom the ANC ousted in February last year, a string of scandals involving corruption and gross maladministration seriously tarnished the party’s image. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.
His successor, former trade union leader turned businessman Ramaphosa, is trying to make amends by cracking down on corruption and revitalising the stagnant economy. But he faces a struggle convincing some members of his party to back his reformist agenda.
- Main opposition DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
The DA won 22 per cent of the parliamentary vote in 2014, giving it the second biggest number of seats in the National Assembly.
It traces its roots back to the Progressive Party, a group formed by white liberals who opposed apartheid and has grown partly by merging with other parties.
In 2015 the DA appointed its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, to broaden its appeal and improved its national standing by leading coalition victories in local government elections in metropolitan areas like Johannesburg a year later.
But some analysts say it has lost its way since reaching what is considered its highest political milestone and some polls show that its support could wane.
Last year the DA became embroiled in a bitter dispute with one of its most prominent politicians, former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. De Lille has a strong following in the Western Cape and left the DA to form her own party, which could dent the DA’s support.
Some political commentators say Ramaphosa appeals to a part of the DA’s support base, the middle class and business owners who favour market-friendly policies.
- Third-force ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS, EFF
The EFF won 6 percent of the vote in 2014, making it the third-largest party in parliament. Some polls show the party almost doubling its vote share this time around.
Known for its far-left policies including plans to nationalise mines, the party punches above its weight on the political scene.
It played a key role in holding Zuma to account for spending state money on non-security upgrades to his private residence and has shaped the debate on land expropriation without compensation, a policy the ANC has said it intends to carry out in due course.
The EFF is led by Julius Malema, a fiery orator who formed the party in 2013 after he was expelled from the ANC, where he headed the party’s youth wing. His political rhetoric appeals to mainly younger black voters who are disillusioned with 25 years of ANC rule.
The EFF, whose lawmakers often dress in red overalls and plastic hard hats to show their allegiance to the working class, emerged as a kingmaker in 2016 elections in metropolitan areas like the administrative capital Pretoria and commercial capital Johannesburg, where it backed DA candidates.
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