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

Sat, May 10, 2014, 01:00

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.

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