South Africa’s Election: Key Issues, Party Promises, and The Facts

Introduction:

For the first time since gaining power through the country’s first democratic elections 30 years ago, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is projected to receive less than 50 percent of the vote, the minimum it requires to continue governing alone. 

This possibility alone has made the election set for May 29 a watershed moment for the country. 

A myriad of issues are behind the ANC’s drop in support, including rampant corruption, crumbling roads, port and rail infrastructure, rolling blackouts, lack of water, unemployment, crime, and gender-based violence. 

A 2023 Afrobarometer survey conducted among South African voters found that 70 percent were unsatisfied with the way democracy is working in the country, while a 2024 IPSOS survey found that 66 percent of voters believe that the country is ‘moving in the wrong direction.’ 

As of April 27, the ANC was, according to IPSOS, polling at 40.2 percent, trailed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 21.9 percent, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 11.5 percent and Jacob Zuma’s Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) at 8.4 percent.

source: IPSOS

With election day just around the corner, only time will tell who comes out victorious. However, various parties have already committed themselves to forming a coalition under the DA’s ‘Multi-Party Charter,’ in an attempt to prevent the formation of a ‘doomsday coalition’ between the ANC and EFF. 

It is unlikely that the ANC would be willing to form a coalition with Zuma’s MK party due to a long history of bad blood between the party and the former President, but in South African politics anything is possible. 

The Facts:

Corruption

Corruption has been a long-running issue in the country, but was brought under the spotlight during the tenure of Jacob Zuma, who served as President from 2009-2018 before being removed from office by his then-party, the ANC. Zuma’s two terms are often referred to as ‘South Africa’s lost decade.’ In addition to various scandals, including one pertaining to money laundering in connection to an arms deal with a French arms manufacturer in 1999, Zuma squandered $26 billion of taxpayer dollars through the implementation of what is referred to as ‘state capture.’

‘State capture’ refers to a “type of systematic corruption whereby narrow interest groups take control of the institutions and processes through which public policy is made, directing public policy away from the public interest and instead shaping it to serve their own interests.” 

This corruption under Zuma led to the ‘capture’ of key state-owned entities such as the national power authority (ESKOM), logistics authority (TRANSNET), rail system (PRASA), and national airline (SAA). As a result, Zuma allies were awarded contracts or positions which enabled them to embezzle funds out of these key institutions and into their own pockets. The effects of this policy are still felt in the country today. 

Economy

As a result of the slow crumbling of the state’s key enterprises, the South African economy grew by just half a percent in 2023. 

The unstable situation the nation finds itself in today, particularly in the lead up to the election, has induced various intelligence agencies to warn clients of the possibility of civil unrest in the country. 

Because of this dim forecast, foreign investors and foreign companies are fleeing. 

So far, foreign investors have sold off approximately $2.4 billion in South African equities. Oil giant Shell has announced its departure from the country after 120 years, and BNP Paribas, the sixth largest bank in the world, has also announced its intention to leave. 

Unemployment in South Africa is also some of the highest in the world at 32.1percent. In addition to high rates of joblessness, South Africa is home to some of the world’s largest income disparities. 

The country has a gini coefficient of 0.67 percent, one of the highest in the world. The gini coefficient measures income disparities through a percentage between zero and one, with a score of zero percent indicating total income equality and a score of one percent indicating total income inequality. Where incomes are distributed equally, we expect the coefficient to be low. For reference, the United States has a gini coefficient of 0.42 percent, while Switzerland sits at a coefficient of 0.33 percent. 

Crime 

In terms of crime, South Africa is ranked the fifth most dangerous country in the world and the most dangerous on the African continent. By February of this year, police statistics revealed 84 murders and 134 rapes were occurring daily. 

The country has a crime index ranking of 75.5, 8.8 points above Somalia, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2009. 

Moreover, gender-based violence is a key issue in the country, with 11 women murdered per day. This year, slightly more than half (55.24%) of the country’s voter base is female, making combatting this problem a key policy goal for many parties. 

Load-shedding and Water-shedding

‘Load-shedding’ or the implementation of nationwide rolling blackouts to prevent the collapse of the country’s power grid is another key issue, with the mismanagement of the nation’s power authority, ESKOM, directly linked to state capture. 

Although load-shedding has been in place since 2008, the country experienced more blackouts in 2023 than in the 14 years between 2008 and 2021 combined. 

A growing lack of water is a new issue facing South African citizens. In the provinces of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape, taps run dry for hours, sometimes days in some towns due to aging water infrastructure which has gone years without adequate maintenance. In 2019, Cape Town approached “Day Zero”–the point at which Cape Town’s municipal water supply would be shut off–by just 90 days. The city narrowly averted running out of water, but made headlines around the world as the first city to be threatened by one of the worst-ever drought-induced water crises. 

So, What Have The Country’s Four Main Parties Promised To Do About It?:

African National Congress

Corruption: 

  • Strengthen whistleblower protection 
  • Strengthen National Prosecuting Authority
  • Ensure South Africa’s removal from the Financial Action Task Force Watch list 

Economy: 

  • Create 2.5 million state-funded job opportunities 
  • Develop an ecosystem of state banks in the national, provincial and economic sectors 
  • Start a sovereign wealth fund 
  • Expand the black industrialist program to support 2,000 companies 

Crime:

  • ‘More police’ 
  • Adequate resourcing of community policing forums 
  • Priority area policing through data analysis 

Load-shedding/Water-shedding: 

  • Support cheaper and subsidized solar power 
  • Establish a national oil company for refineries 
  • Become a world player in green hydrogen battery and electric vehicle production 

 

Democratic Alliance

Corruption: 

  • Appoint new police watchdog 
  • Reduce bloated South African Police Service senior management; lifestyle audits for cops; partnership with private security 
  • Replace Public Service Act and make public service functions separate from the state 
  • Regular lifestyle audits for politicians and officials 

Economy: 

  • Remove race as an employment criterion: replace Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy with United Nations sustainable development goals 
  • No new taxes
  • Stabilize debt, control spending and fix state-owned enterprises 
  • Deregulate the labor market to create jobs 

Crime:

  • Victim-centered approach 
  • Crackdown on illegal guns while supporting responsible gun ownership 
  • Decentralize policing to ‘capable’ provincial and metropolitan governments 

Load-shedding/Water-shedding:

  • End water-shedding; get private companies involved in water infrastructure projects 
  • Break up ESKOM’s monopoly and move the utility away from energy generation 

 

Economic Freedom Fighters 

Corruption: 

  • ‘A corruption free government’ 
  • Protect whistleblowers 
  • Minimum sentence of 25 years for police found guilty of serious crime 

Economy:

  • “The economy in South Africa today continues to be under the ownership of white minority settlers”
  • Nationalize mines, banks, and other sectors of the economy without compensation 
  • Start state-owned companies in keys sectors 
  • Start state-owned insurance company 
  • National minimum wage of R6,000 per month 
  • Expropriate all land without compensation 
  • Make all land state-owned 
  • Transfer 50% of land to black people within 5 years 

Crime: 

  • Retrain police by 2027 and employ an additional 100,000 more police officers 

Load-shedding/Water-shedding:

  • Two new water treatment plants in each province 
  • Encourage shale gas exploration 
  • 200 kilowatts free electricity per month to poor households 
  • Focus on nuclear energy, with Russian guidance 

UmKhonto weSizwe

MK’s manifesto begins: “South African society is dominated culturally, artistically, spiritually and economically by a minority group with an alien culture.”

Crime:

  • More police 
  • Hold a referendum to bring back the death penalty 
  • Accelerate prosecution of apartheid’s outstanding truth and reconciliation commission cases 

Corruption:

  • The MK party does not touch on any policies to combat corruption 

Economy:

  • “Permanent jobs for all capable and willing workers at a minimum wage of R4,500 per month. The state will offer employment to anyone willing to work.”
  • Fees free education from kindergarten to postgraduate level 
  • Expropriate all land without compensation 
  • Force re-list all major South African companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange 

Load-shedding/Water-shedding:

  • Reintroduce cap on privately produced energy 
  • Nationalize all water, spectrum, and renewable energy sources 

 

Conclusion: 

While South African politics is characterized by its unpredictability, it is likely the ANC will maintain its grip on power through some sort of power sharing agreement. With whom the ruling party decides to form a coalition with is up for debate. The EFF is the most likely contender, although the party’s radical policies (if implemented) probably will prompt a mass exodus of land owners, business owners, and foreign investors.

A coalition with the DA seems to be the most logical solution for citizens who enjoy water in their taps, although the DA’s desire to conduct lifestyle audits on politicians is sure to not sit well with ANC’s top brass.

As stated previously, the South African political climate is highly complex, despite a single party governing the nation for 30 years. With preliminary results expected no later than June 1, one must in the simplest terms, wait and see.

 

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

MORE FROM ATLAS NEWS

Philippines and China Release Footage of June 17th Incident at Second Thomas Shoal

On June 19th, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released videos and photos of the resupply mission that occurred on June 17th. The AFP released the footage after...

Japanese Diet Enacts Political Funds Reform

On Wednesday, the Japanese Diet adopted a proposed political funds control law following months of debate and intense criticism off the back of a major slush fund scandal plaguing...