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April 10, 2014

South Africa Divided as Election Looms

by Anita Powell

South Africa's urbanites are increasingly vocal about their opposition to the ruling African National Congress, which they blame for a number of the nation's ills, including corruption.  But the ANC has traditionally counted on strong support from the countryside, where many residents rely on government subsidies to survive. 

Rural Limpopo Province is supposed to be the heartland of the African National Congress.
 
The party has dominated elections since Nelson Mandela brought it to power in 1994.  But as the upcoming May 7th national election gets nearer, it appears to be losing ground.
 
The ANC is campaigning hard to hold on to its dominance here, where it won 85 percent of the vote in 2009.
 
But there are no election posters here in the village of Gwakwani.
 
The nearest town is a grueling two-hour drive away over rough terrain.  Gwakwani has no paved roads or running water and is not on the electric grid.
 
Even without that though, there is great love for the ANC according to says local ANC representative Rabelani Gadabeni.

"Each and every one here supports the ANC just because they know, this is the only party that is in this territory that is seen to provide every information, every issue, everything that you can see here is because of the ANC," said Gadabeni.

Not so fast, says 23-year-old resident Christopher Nefolovhodwe, who favors the opposition Democratic Alliance since he says the ANC has not provided basic services.
 
"I want to make some changes because ANC has been managing for a long time and no changes that ANC do for us.  I think that if we vote for the DA, maybe some changes will be," he said.
 
In recent months, President Jacob Zuma has come under fire for misusing tens of millions of dollars in government funds to renovate his home.  And there have been numerous protests pushing for basic services such as clean water and electricity.

Urban voting

In Johannesburg, voters seem less likely to support the ruling party, although the ANC won 64 percent in the 2009 election.

Some voters are upset over the introduction of electronically-tolled highways in the car-crazy province.
 
Accounting student Songezo Mcapukisi is from Nelson Mandela's home province, but moved to the city.  He says he can't support Mandela's party.
 
"The e-tolls and the cost of living is really very high.  And we need to create an environment for investment in the country.  And the current government has been doing badly in terms of bringing investors into the country," said Mcapukisi.

Other Johannesburg voters say they're conflicted.
 
"I'm fed up and I want change, because I feel - nothing against the ruling party," said conference manager Gugulethu Mazibuko. "I love the ANC and they've done so much for the country, but at the same time, I feel that they have to also realize that we put them there… And they can't just be like dictators, like whatever they say goes."

Those arguments are not as loud in Limpopo province, but some rural residents are losing faith in the ANC.

But will Limpopo turn?  One voter declined to disclose her choice - but her hips, well, they don't lie.