SOUTH AFRICA DECIDES 2019
By Paul Ndiho
The Electoral Commission of South Africa says nearly 27 million people have registered to vote in today’s National Assembly and provincial legislature elections. The number of people registered to vote represents about 75 percent of the eligible population.
The stakes are high as South African voters cast their ballots in today’s in general elections. This is the sixth election held since the end of the apartheid system — and it will determine who will become the nation’s next president.
The poll also marks the 25th anniversary of the country’s iconic 1994 elections which saw the African National Congress party – with Nelson Mandela at the helm – arrive at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape. But now the A-N-C is facing an uphill battle to retain its dominance amid a series of corruption scandals. South Africa’s president says he determined to clean-up his country.
“We want to rid our country of corruption, and we want to rid our country of the wrongdoing that has been happening in the past few years. Comrades we’re not turning back… Corruption comrades are not only corruption against the state; it is corruption against the people of South Africa.”
Political analysts say comments like these from the president have only adds fuel to the opposition – and their campaigning fire.
“He (Ramaphosa) says ‘we stole from your future, give us a chance to steal even more.'”
Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party, has also taken to attacking government corruption.
“There’s too much money in South Africa (that) is wasted by politicians…Let’s save money! What do you want to do with that money Malema? I want to give those grannies, and I want to give their children that money removed from the pockets of politicians.”
The fight over land reform remains a hot topic as people cast their ballots. South Africa is considering changes to its constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without an explicit plan for compensation. Struggling farmer Meshack Ncongwane was a life-long supporter of the ANC, but he says the party will not have his vote in this election.
“We see corruption being investigated, but no one is being arrested. If it were me, I would have long been in jail, that’s the painful part.”
Young South Africans make up the majority of eligible voters, but they are finding it difficult to find jobs. The nation’s youth unemployment rate is hovering at 53 percent, ranked among the highest in the world. Kgomotso Sebabi, has two bachelor’s degrees, but she says it is still tough to find a job in her field.
“You go to school, and then once you are qualified you sit with a whole stack of certificates that you can’t actually use, but then you can see within the public sector that here I can make a contribution, here I can make a contribution, but it’s like they are just not hiring the correct candidates.”
Tswelopele Maputla, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Rhodes University, but she feels like she’s been duped into believing education is the answer to poverty.
“I feel scammed, because in so many of these (election) campaigns, right, they talk about unemployment, they talk about poverty alleviation, they talk about gender-based violence, but it’s all a talk shop. And I genuinely feel like you are trying to target the youth, but even the representation in most parties – there are no young people in some of these parties even.”
The government repeatedly vows, especially on the elections campaign trail, to create desperately needed jobs. Political observers say that this election is like no other because for the last 25 years, the ANC has never really been challenged at the polls. But it has also never been as tainted by controversy and corruption as it has been in the last few years.
Paired with the risk of a low voter turnout, the real impact of this election will only be seen as the ballots are counted.