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February 07, 2014

South Africa Government Counts its Successes as Elections Loom

by Thuso Khumalo

The 2014 national elections in South Africa, set for May 7, come as the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of democracy, with the black majority African National Congress - ANC at the helm. The ruling party hopes to continue in power by showing what it has achieved in 20 years. 

The 2014 national elections in South Africa promise to be the most contested in a long time.

In the run-up to the vote, protesters, largely from impoverished townships, are accusing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) led government of failing to deliver basic services such as housing, water and electricity.

However, the ANC-led government, which has been in power since overthrowing the apartheid regime in 1994, said it has produced a long list of achievements in its 20 years at the helm.

The party claimed it has built over 3.3 million houses benefiting 16 million South Africans. It said it has also rolled out social grants to millions living in poverty.

Although the rate of unemployment still stands above 25 percent, in a country with a total of 51.8 million people, the ANC government said in the past 20 years employment increased by 3.5 million jobs while the economy has expanded by 83 percent.

On the health front, the government said its fight against HIV and AIDS has been successful, while access to education has also increased for millions.

Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu, International Relations Advisor in the South African Presidency and senior member of the ANC National Executive Committee, said the ANC government’s achievements were envied by many African countries.

“We have a story to tell on what we have done in the past 20 years and I think that people need to judge us on what we have been able to do,” said Zulu.

However, Andile Mgxitama, a Black Consciousness Movement Organizer and now a member of the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters party, accuseed the ANC government of delivering substandard services and said millions of people were yet to enjoy the fruits of freedom. He argued that corruption and bad policy choices were largely responsible for the country’s failures.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma himself had hundreds of corruption charges against him dropped and is currently engulfed in a storm over use of state funds in building his private home.

“The ANC, which is the leading party in power, bought themselves into whiteness and joined the privileged section of the society which is white, and abandoned the black majority, increasingly undermining the public sphere because you have been able to buy yourself out of it,” said Mgxitama.

On the contrary, Dr Siphamandla Zondi, Director at the Institute for Global Dialogue, a political research institute, argued that it was being unrealistic to think that the extent of damage caused by the colonial system in South Africa could be repaired in 20 years.

“It was almost 400 years of distortion that could never have been, even with the best of leadership, you would never achieve, not in 20 years,” said Zondi.

Political analysts said the ruling ANC would win the elections this year, but not without a stiff challenge from the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters party, formed by the expelled ANC Youth League President Julius Malema.