South Africa is a country located in the region of Southern Africa. The African National Congress (ANC) has dominated the parliament since 1994, but support for the party has gradually declined since the peak of almost 70 per cent in 2004. Recent years of corruption scandals, high unemployment and large income gaps, the ANC was in the barrel in the May 2019 elections. for a time, the ANC reversed but managed to retain control of Parliament. The winner of the election became the radical left-wing party EFF.
Before Jacob Zuma was elected president in 2009, he portrayed himself as a hero to the poor. He promised more jobs, lower crime, increased welfare and redistribution of land from white to black. But even though the government launched large projects to create jobs and expand welfare, the disappointment spread to inequality and poverty. Unemployment and crime statistics were at high levels and social services were inadequate.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of South Africa, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Militant street protests in poor areas increased sharply from 2009 to a peak in 2012, when 470 protest actions were registered. Conflicts also arose in the labor market. In August 2012, 34 miners were shot dead when police attempted to disperse striking workers at the Marikana mine outside Pretoria. The violence caused many to draw parallels with the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 (see Modern History).
In 2014, it was still demonstrated on average every other day somewhere in the country. Most often it was about the lack of social service, dissatisfaction with housing, sanitation and schools, but also the contradictions between different phalanges within the ANC.
Within the governing tripartite alliance (ANC, the Communist Party and the trade union movement Cosatu) there was a heated debate about the direction of economic policy. The Left-wing, that is, Cosatu and the Communist Party, criticized President Zuma for what he considered to be an overly business-friendly economic policy, incidentally the same criticism leveled at his predecessor Thabo Mbeki. The left wanted to spend more resources and give the state a more active role in the economy. Both the Alliance brothers and the opposition accused President Jacob Zuma and the ANC leadership of imperfection, sly politics and a tendency to want to silence criticism. As a bat in the debate, accusations of corruption are rarely used.
Zuma, who himself was charged with corruption (see Modern history), promised during the election campaign to devote new resources to curbing the phenomenon. However, after taking office as president, he explained that it was more important to chase low-level offenders within the system than people in higher positions. At the beginning of autumn 2011, the government resumed, after hard pressure from the opposition, the corruption investigation into the large arms deal in 1999, which included, among other things, the purchase of Swedish JAS plans (see Foreign Policy and Defense). The decision was made after new information emerged about bribery of persons in office.
The power struggle within the ANC worsened in 2011 when Zuma came into acute conflict with the influential leader of the ANC’s youth association, Julius Malema, who among other things accused Zuma of betraying the country’s poor and selling the country’s assets to foreign interests. The Youth League demanded that the state nationalize the country’s mines and white farmers’ land without compensation. Malema’s statements garnered him considerable support from the ANC’s supporters among the poor, and increased the division within the tripartite alliance. Alongside the criticism of Zuma, Malema made a number of other controversial statements and in February 2012 he was excluded from the ANC.
2013 was characterized by new strikes and economic downturn. Two new parties were started before the 2014 elections, Julius Malema’s left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Agang. The latter was founded by a well-known female anti-apartheid activist, Mamphela Ramphele, and demanded measures against corruption, among other things.
The election in May 2014 became the worst ever for the ANC, which received just over 62 percent of the vote against nearly 66 percent in the 2009 election. The largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) went ahead and gained just over 22 percent, while the EFF became the third largest party with just over 6 percent.. Agang got less than 1 percent. After the election, Zuma was elected president for a new five-year term.
The scandals surrounding Zuma continued to dominate politics. Even before the election, rebuilding and new buildings on Zuma’s private yard in the hometown of Nkandla had arrived in the shotgun. The building had cost SEK 150 million of the state’s funds, and the Ombudsman demanded that Zuma repay everything that did not apply to clean security installations.
Continued protests against the government’s inability to solve the country’s economic and social problems put pressure on the ANC ahead of the 2016 local elections and the ANC made its worst election in 22 years. Only 54 percent of voters voted for the ANC.
The ANC also criticized Zuma. At the distrust vote held at the beginning of autumn 2017, some of the ANC MPs also voted in favor of the proposal.
At the ANC party congress in December, Zuma was replaced as party chairman by Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa. The rules prevented Zuma from running for a third term. Ramaphosa won by just a margin over another ANC veteran, Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
At the end of 2017, the courts increased the pressure on the ANC and Zuma, among other things, by requiring Parliament to formulate a statute for the dismissal of a sitting president. Within the new leadership of the ANC, the opinions about Zuma were divided. However, those who wanted to force Zuma’s departure got the upper hand and in mid-February 2018 the ANC officially demanded that Zuma resign. Zuma tried to counteract for a few days but gave up and announced his departure on February 14 with immediate effect. Ramaphosa took over as president the following day.
Ramaphosa promised that the allegations of corruption under Zuma would be investigated and that further measures to curb corruption would be taken.
In the fall of 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal had declared it free to prosecute Zuma for the corruption crimes he suspected of in connection with the large arms deal in the 1990s. The charges filed when Zuma became president in 2009 included 783 cases of corruption. After pondering for almost six months, the then state prosecutor decided to bring charges against Zuma in 16 cases.
However, Zuma is not only charged with corruption crimes during the 1990s. In August 2018, a public inquiry commission began its work investigating allegations that Zuma, during his time as president, systematically plundered the Treasury for money and gave the powerful financial family Gupta both undue business benefits and influence over politics. The investigation was expected to take over two years.
The corruption deals surrounding Zuma have hardened the ANC’s confidence among voters as well as the government’s inability to deal with the high unemployment and widespread poverty. According to the World Bank, South Africa is one of the countries in the world where there is the greatest difference between different population groups, and the proportion of poor people has increased. About 20 percent of blacks are now estimated to live in extreme poverty, compared to 2.9 percent of the country’s whites. Unemployment in 2018 was more than 27 percent in general and more than 53 percent among people under 35. Add to this a widespread crime – in 2017 there were 57 homicides per day in the country – and a poor health care system working under the weight of a population where every fifth inhabitant is HIV-infected.
Ahead of the May 2019 elections, many dissatisfied younger voters were expected to turn to the EFF, which went to elections to promise to nationalize banks and mines, and implement land reform by taking land from white farmers without compensation and distributing it to blacks.
The election forecast hit. The EFF almost doubled its number of seats at the expense of the two big ones – the ANC and the DA – who lost ground. The ANC won 57.5 percent of the vote and lost 19 seats. It was the worst result for the ANC since 1994 when the first democratic elections were held but the ANC managed to retain its majority in parliament and the voting figures were still an improvement over the municipal elections in 2016 (see above). The DA backed just over a percent and lost 5 seats while Inkatha’s Freedom Party and the Freedom Front plus were strengthened (read more about the election results in the Calendar).
“We have learned the lesson,” President Ramaphosa said in a humble comment when the results were clear. He promised again to create jobs and fight corruption, but the setback is believed to have weakened Ramaphosa’s position within the ANC where many of Zuma’s allies remain on key posts and oppose reforms.
Followed the ongoing development of the Calendar.
READING TIPS – read more about South Africa in UI’s web magazine Foreign magazine:
South Africa’s school system lapses despite efforts (2019-11-26)
Disappointed South Africans turn their backs (2019-04-19)
South Africans hope for Ramaphosa’s superpowers (2019-06-18)
South Africans do not want to wait any longer for land reform (2018-11-22)
Shower technology talk topic in water shortage Cape Town (2018-03-19)
In- depth knowledge of South Africa can also be found in World Policy Day Issues South Africa goes for election: Patience tries (no. 1 2019)
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of South Africa / Republic of South Africa
republic, unitary state
Head of State
Cyril Ramaphosa (2018–)
Head of government
Cyril Ramaphosa (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
African National Congress (ANC), 230, Democratic Alliance (DA) 84, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) 44, Inkatha’s Freedom Party (IFP) 14, Freedom Front Plus 10, others 18 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
African National Congress (ANC), 249 Democratic Alliance (DA) 89, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) 25, Inkatha’s Freedom Party (IFP) 10, National Freedom Party (NFP) 6, Freedom Front Plus (4) others 17 (2014)
66% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2024 1
- The President is appointed by Parliament