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South African Elections a Test for ANC


South Africa's ruling African National Congress will face its first real electoral test in local government polls on the first of March. Voter dissatisfaction has been growing over the past year as the government struggles to provide housing and services to the public. The ANC is also trying to stamp out corruption and party in-fighting.

South Africans are beginning to express their frustrations with the African National Congress, which has held power for the past 11 years.

Poor service delivery has led to more than 800 demonstrations and protests in the country last year, and the March 1 election will be the first opportunity for voters to express their dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

In the townships outside the major cities, thousands of people are still without permanent housing, power, running water or sewer service.

One of the worst areas is Kayalitsha in Cape Town where ANC supporter Lingile Nazo has lived in a shack made of plastic and recycled metal for five years.

Nazo says his party has just not delivered.

"I thought that when the apartheid ended the first president get into power we were all going to be equal but it is worse than before," he said. "I don't want to lie, they have disappointed me and I told myself I will never vote again because the voting is doing me nothing."

Voter dissatisfaction is not the only problem for the ANC in this election, corruption and underperformance have dogged the party at the municipal level.

Senior research fellow with the center for policy studies, Steven Friedman, says while the ANC is trying to clean up local government, this is also creating more frustrations within the party.

"Sixty percent of the candidates they expect will be new but of course the problem they have is that the way in which this has been done is in some sense making the problem worse because there are a lot of national influences and a lot of national decision making which goes into this, so therefore, you have a situation in which local people become upset because they feel that candidates are being imposed upon them by the center," Friedman said.

But despite the problems faced by the ANC in this election, Friedman says the party is unlikely to lose many wards.

"Party affiliations are very important to South African voters and for every one case in which an independent beats an ANC member, I think one could name half a dozen in which popular local personalities who you know do have standing in their communities lose local elections if they're not party candidates because of people's party affiliation," he said.

Voters go to the ballot box on March 1.

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