South African elections 2024: South Africans vote in election that pits the ...

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Published Time: 29.05.2024 - 19:01:15 Modified Time: 29.05.2024 - 19:01:15

The main opposition leader, John Steenhuisen, disagreed. South African elections 2024

It is now the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty.

The main opposition leader, John Steenhuisen, disagreed.

"For the first time in 30 years, there is now a path to victory for the opposition."

Africa's most advanced economy has some of the world's deepest socio-economic problems, including one of the worst unemployment rates at 32 per cent.

The lingering inequality, with poverty disproportionately affecting the Black majority, threatens to unseat the party that promised to end it by bringing down apartheid under the slogan of a better life for all.

"Our main issue here in our community is the lack of jobs," said Samuel Ratshalingwa, who was near the front of the line at the same school in the Johannesburg township of Soweto where Mr Ramaphosa voted.

He came out before 7am on a chilly winter morning.

"We have to use the vote to make our voices heard this problem," Mr Ratshalingwa said.

After winning six successive national elections, several polls have put the ANC's support at less than 50 per cent before this vote — an unprecedented drop.

It might lose its majority in parliament for the first time, although it's widely expected to hold the most seats.

The ANC won 57.5 per cent of the vote in the last national election in 2019, its worst result to date and down from a high of nearly 70 per cent in 2004.

That slide has been attributed to widespread poverty, but also numerous ANC corruption scandals and a failure of basic government services that see many communities go without running water, electricity or proper housing.

Mr Ramaphosa has promised to "do better".

The 71-year-old sat alongside other voters in Soweto, where he was born and which was once the centre of the resistance to apartheid.

He shook hands with two smiling officials who registered him before voting.

"I have no doubt whatsoever in my heart of hearts that the will once again invest confidence in the African National Congress to continue to lead this country," Mr Ramaphosa said.

Any change in the ANC's hold on power could be monumental for South Africa.

If it does lose its majority, the ANC will likely face the prospect of a coalition with others to stay in government to keep Mr Ramaphosa as president for a second term.

The ANC has not had to co-govern before.

South Africans vote for parties, not directly for their president.

The parties then get seats in parliament according to their share of the vote and politicians elect the president.

The election was to be held on one day across South Africa's nine provinces, with nearly 28 million registered to vote at more than 23,000 polling stations.

Final results are expected by Sunday.

The opposition to the ANC is fierce but fragmented.

The two biggest opposition parties, the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA) and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, are not predicted to increase their vote by anything near enough to overtake the ANC.

That's largely because disgruntled South Africans are moving to an array of opposition parties; more than 50 will contest the national election, many of them new.

One is led by South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma, who has turned against his former ANC allies.

Mr Zuma was disqualified from standing as a candidate for parliament but his MK Party is still contesting and is the wild card.

Mr Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition DA, said South Africa was now heading to "coalition country".

He conceded his party probably would not gain a majority, but put faith in a pre-election agreement with other smaller parties to combine their vote to remove the ANC.

"I don't think we're going to solve the problems of South Africa by keeping the same around the same table making the same bad decisions for the same bad results," Mr Steenhuisen said.

The ANC says it's confident of retaining its majority and analysts haven't ruled that out, given the party's unmatched grassroots campaigning machine.

It still has wide support.

"I woke up at 4am this morning, took a bath and made my way," said 68-year-old Velaphi Banda, adding that he has voted for the ANC since 1994 and would do so again.

"I was never undecided which party I will vote for. I have always known."

South Africa's president has pointed out how the country is better now than it was under apartheid, when Black were barred from voting, were not allowed to move around freely, had to live in certain areas and were oppressed in every way.

This election is only South Africa's seventh national vote in which of all races are allowed to take part.

Memories of that era of apartheid, and the defining election that ended it in 1994, still frame much of everyday South Africa. But fewer remember it as time goes on, and this election might give voice to a new generation.

"I feel like there are just no opportunities for young in this area," said 27-year-old Innocentia Zitha.

While 80 per cent of South Africans are Black, it is a multiracial country with significant populations of white , those of Indian descent, those with biracial heritage and others.

There are 12 official languages.

The independent electoral commission that runs the election said there were some problems with stations opening on time but they were minor.

South Africa has held peaceful and credible elections since a violent build-up to the pivotal 1994 election.

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