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South Africa votes in election that could bring biggest shift since 1994

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans began voting Wednesday during an election considered the most important in their country in 30 years and which could place their young democracy in uncharted territory.

At stake is the three-decade domination of African National Congress Partywhich allowed South Africa to exit The brutal white minority regime of apartheid in 1994. She is now the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people – half of whom are estimated to live in poverty.

Africa’s most advanced economy has some of the world’s economies deepest socio-economic problemsincluding one of the worst unemployment rates at 32%.

Persistent inequality, with poverty and unemployment disproportionately affecting the black majority, threatens to topple the party that promised to end it by bringing down apartheid under the slogan of a better life for all.

Having won six successive national elections, several polls put the ANC’s support at less than 50% ahead of this one, an unprecedented drop. It could lose its majority in parliament for the first time, although it is widely expected to hold the largest number of seats.

Support fades. The ANC won 57.5% of the vote in the last national elections in 2019, its worst result to date.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the leader of the ANC, promised to “do better”. The ANC asked for more time and patience.

Any change in the ANC’s grip on power could be monumental for South Africa. If it loses its majority, the ANC will likely face the prospect of having to form a coalition with others to remain in government and keep Ramaphosa as president. The ANC having to co-govern has never happened before.

South Africans vote for parties, not directly for their president. Parties then gain seats in Parliament based on their vote share and these legislators elect the president after the election. The ANC has always had a majority in Parliament since 1994.

The election will take place in a single day across South Africa’s nine provinces, with almost 28 million people registered to vote at more than 23,000 polling stations. Final results are expected by Sunday. Ramaphosa was due to vote in the morning at a primary school in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, where he was born and which was once the epicenter of resistance to apartheid.

There, Samuel Ratshalingwa was among the first in line in the cold of the early South African winter.

“I take voting seriously because as a community it’s hard to complain about services when you haven’t voted,” he said. “Our biggest problem here in our community is the lack of jobs. We must use voting to make our voices heard on this issue.”

Opposition to the ANC in this election is fierce, but fragmented. The two largest opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, are not expected to increase their votes enough to overtake the ANC.

Instead, disaffected South Africans are turning to a range of opposition parties; more than 50 people will run for national office, many of them new. One is led by former South African President Jacob Zuma, who turned against his former ANC allies. Zuma was disqualified as a parliamentary candidate, but his party is still a candidate and is the wild card. He was due to vote in a rural part of his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The ANC says it is confident in its ability to retain its majority. Ramaphosa highlighted how South Africa is a much better country today than under apartheid, when black people were not allowed to vote, were not allowed to move freely, had to live in certain areas and were oppressed in every way.

Memories of that time, and the decisive vote that ended it in 1994, they still represent a large part of daily life in South Africa. But fewer people remember it as time passes.

“This will be the seventh time that South Africans of all races, from all backgrounds and from all corners of our country, will vote for national and provincial government,” Ramaphosa said in his final address to the country before the election. . “We will once again affirm the fundamental principle…that no government can legitimately claim its authority unless it is based on the will of the people as a whole. »

Ramaphosa outlined some of his ANC government’s policies to boost the economy, create jobs and expand social support for poor residents. The speech sparked a furious response from opposition parties, who accused him of breaking an electoral law that prevents people in public office from using their positions to promote a party.

The vote will highlight the country’s contradictions, from the economic hub of Johannesburg – dubbed Africa’s richest city – to the picturesque tourist destination of Cape Town, to the informal slums of its suburbs. Millions of people will vote in rural areas still considered the heartland of the ANC and analysts do not rule out that the party could cling to its majority, given its decades of experience in government and an unrivaled popular electoral machine.

While 80% of South Africans are black, it is a multiracial country with significant populations of white, Indian ancestry, biracial heritage and others. There are 12 official languages.

It is diversity that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, emphasized that this was a beautiful thing by calling his country a “rainbow nation.” It is a diversity which, with the emergence of many new opposition parties, could now also be reflected in its politics.


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa, and Mutsaka from Eshowe, South Africa.


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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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