ANC wins election but not by enough for constitutional reform

South African election hailed as most competitive since end of apartheid

South African president Jacob Zuma greets opposition DA party leader Helen Zille at the results operations centre in Pretoria. Photograph: EPA

South African president Jacob Zuma greets opposition DA party leader Helen Zille at the results operations centre in Pretoria. Photograph: EPA


The African National Congress has secured a comfortable victory in South Africa’s general election, following an impressive voter turnout for a poll hailed as the most competitive since apartheid ended 20 years ago.

With 99 per cent of the votes counted by mid-afternoon yesterday, the ANC had secured 62.24 per cent of the tally – a resounding endorsement from an electorate many analysts believed had grown disillusioned with the ruling party.

The ruling party has been undermined by leadership scandals and its relatively poor performance over the past five years but, despite this, a majority of South Africans continue to show faith in the organisation once led by Nelson Mandela.

However, whatever about the commanding win, the ANC has fallen short of the two-thirds majority it needs to amend the constitution.

National executive committee member of the party Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she believed it would use its mandate to speed up service delivery in poor areas – a key issue that saw violent protests in townships such as Bekkersdal before voting day.

Need to accelerate
“There is a need obviously to accelerate everything we are doing. I think in the next five years we have no choice but to accelerate service delivery in the areas we have identified,” she told reporters at the main electoral commission results centre in Pretoria.

The ANC is also likely to use its mandate to set in motion its national development plan, which rejects nationalisation in favour of investment and infrastructure development as a way to turn the economy around.

The adoption of the business-friendly plan could prompt some of South Africa’s powerful unions to break away from their alliance with the ANC to form their own party.

Indeed, the ANC’s urgency to improve its performance is also undoubtedly linked to the fact its margin of victory this year was lower than in the last general election in 2009, when it won 65.9 per cent of the vote.

Looking at the ANC’s performance since 2004, when it won 69.69 per cent of the vote, its level of support in percentage terms continues on a steady downward trajectory.

The ANC’s staunchest supporters are from rural areas, and its control of a number of South African cities outside the Western Cape province came under threat this year for the first time. It came close to losing its majority in Gauteng province, the country’s economic heartland, where the main opposition Democratic Alliance party made good progress. In Gauteng, where Pretoria and Johannesburg are located, the ANC won only 53 per cent this year compared to 64.04 per cent in 2009. The DA, on the other hand, grew its support base in the province from 21.86 per cent to 31.52 per cent over the same period.

Overall, the DA significantly improved its showing in this year’s poll, securing 22.17 per cent of the national vote, an increase of 5.51 per cent on its 2009 result. The alliance also managed to easily retain the Western Cape, winning 59.50 per cent compared to the ANC’s 32.75 per cent.

This means that for the next five years the ANC will control eight of South Africa’s provinces and the DA will oversee one.

Traditionally, the DA has struggled to attract black voters because of the perception it is a white party established to look after that racial group’s interests. Addressing reporters yesterday, DA leader Helen Zille said her party’s quest to dispel this notion was making good progress. “We grew our support among black South Africans from 0.8 per cent in 2009 to approximately 6 per cent in 2014,” she said. “Roughly 760,000 black South Africans voted for the DA.”

About 40 per cent of these votes were won in Gauteng, she added.

Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, had a very successful election given that it is less than a year old. The EFF, which came in third of the 29 parties that contested the election, took 6.27 per cent of the national vote, or 1.26 million votes. This equates to about 24 parliamentary seats in South Africa’s House of Assembly.

The party also became the official opposition in the North West and Limpopo provinces.

Left-wing policies
Espousing radical left-wing policies such as the nationalisation of South Africa’s mines and land expropriation without compensation, the EFF looked to South Africa’s poor for its support base.

The biggest loser in the election was the Congress of the People, a breakaway party from the ANC that formed shortly before the 2009 general election. It secured a mere 0.67 per cent of the vote, compared to the 7.42 per cent it won five years ago.

The electoral commission said voting passed off peacefully in most areas, and the turnout was recorded at just over 73 per cent. The official election result is to be released today at 6pm local time.

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