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April 22, 2014

S. African Black Voters No Longer Interested in Liberation Credentials

by Thuso Khumalo

During South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, most blacks voted for the African National Congress because it was a black majority party and one that fought for their liberation. Twenty years later, however, there now are many black parties and the ANC's liberation credentials are slowly fading away as an attraction for voters. Black voters to find out what factors they will consider as they vote in elections next month.

Decades of segregation and discrimination united South African blacks against the apartheid government, and it led to a resounding victory for the African National Congress [ANC] during the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The ANC has always used its liberation credentials since then to win national elections. Continued poverty, however, and the increasing number of opposition parties -- especially those formed by disgruntled ANC members -- has rendered the party’s history increasingly irrelevant.

Jerry Tlopane, 64, has voted for the ANC since 1994. But now he accuses the party of turning against the poor and says it has made itself into a "gravy train" for a few of the politically elite. Tlopane said the ANC will not get his vote in the upcoming elections.

"I want the ANC to get a little punishment, so I don’t know how I am going to vote because this is a blank check. If I vote the ANC, I vote for these vultures, you know?" said Tlopane.

ANC defectors

Over the years, many disgruntled ANC members have left to form their own political parties. The latest is the Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] formed by expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema.

Kebby Sikhosana, an unemployed graduate, said he will be voting for the EFF because of its policies of expropriation of land without compensation and nationalization of banks.

"Imagine if people of South Africa had land and they own the banks so they could go and borrow from the bank to start businesses or to buy houses and build houses and will be charged like 5 percent interest rate or 2 percent interest rate, that will be affordable. Even the lady that is cleaning will be able to afford a decent house," said Sikhosana.

Corruption also has taken center stage in the 2014 elections.

Twenty-three-year-old Tholakele Malaza said she would rather not vote than support a corrupt party. "Corruption is one of the biggest threats to our democracy and I think, thank goodness, we have got the media landscape that is still allowed to expose this corruption and that we have got the Public Protector that is still allowed to call people on the things that they do."

Corruption charges

Even those still determined to vote for the ANC -- like mother of five, Nokubonga Kumenga, who received a free government house 10 years ago -- say the liberation history is no longer an attraction.

She said they look at the party’s service delivery record. As she put it, the ANC has provided them with houses, electricity, free health services and education for their children.

But others, like Ndumiso Mlilo, consider the integrity of party leaders before casting their vote. He said in that regard, the ANC will lose a lot of votes due to multiple allegations against party leader and South African President Jacob Zuma.

"Whether in trains, in bars or other public places, people always talk about Zuma as somebody who loves women, who loves corruption. Zuma is always associated with something which is dubious," said Mlilo.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the ANC will win the coming elections, despite new choices for black voters.

"The problem, of course, is that the ANC is blessed with the gift of weak opposition, and South Africa is cursed with a weak and uncompetitive political party system," said Matshiqi.

Many believe that if the ANC wins, however, the margin of victory will be much thinner than at any time in the past.