PoliticsNews & AnalysisElection Watch 2014: South Africa's born frees and battlegrounds


Posted on Monday, 16 December 2013 17:26

Election Watch 2014: South Africa's born frees and battlegrounds

By The Africa Report

President Jacob Zuma is likely to win a second term in April electionsThe ruling African National Congress (ANC) will face its toughest elections yet next year when South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy and its fifth free election since the end of apartheid in 1994.


The ANC fears voter apathy: the biggest threat would be to get a lower share of the vote with falling turn out, but it is near inconceivable that President Jacob Zuma could lose.

Although life has improved for millions of poor black South Africans, there are rising concerns of corruption and high unemployment.

Those are the issues the opposition parties such as Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters and Mamphela Ramphele's Agang SA are targeting.

Malema is coming from the left and Ramphele from the right, trying to squeeze the ANC in the middle.

Political culture and history will save the ANC from really bad damage, but a poor performance would point to a gradual erosion of its base.

"People and voters see the ANC as a delinquent child. You don't replace the ANC; you try to fix it. People don't blame the ANC; they blame the leadership," political analyst Susan Booysen tells The Africa Report.

Last year's party in-fighting annoyed many supporters because it seemed to be more about personal ambition than political ideals.

Violent protests about service delivery and lengthening queues for jobs point to some of the ANC's vulnerabilities.

The provinces to watch are Gauteng, Western Cape, North West and Limpopo: these are where the opposition parties are putting their biggest efforts.

Western Cape, governed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), is the only province the ANC has never won outright.

The ANC won 33% of the votes there in 1994, dropping to 32% in 2009. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told party activists: "The only outpost we must work on is the Western Cape. That's the reality."

The DA is mounting a huge effort to win the country's economic heartland, Gauteng.

Addressing party faithful in Johannesburg earlier this year, party leader Helen Zille said: "What seemed unimaginable a few years ago is now looking likely. The DA is marching towards vic- tory in Gauteng."

Yet the ANC is equally confident it will maintain its stronghold.

The ANC is facing a real fight in its heartlands of North West and Limpopo, where the party has failed to unify battling factions at provincial conferences.

"South African voters are a cynical bunch. They may even carry a DA or Agang card but would still vote for the ANC. They will take the hand-out they can get but won't necessarily see it as delivery," adds Booysen.

The other factors to watch are the allegiances of the 'born frees,' those born after democracy in 1994 who will vote for the first time.

Some activists and politicians reckon the born frees could upset some of the ANC's more complacent voter forecasts. ●

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