News / Africa

Mandela’s Death Sparks Political Debates in South Africa

Mandela’s Death Sparks Political Debates in South Africai
December 16, 2013 3:12 PM
The death of South African icon and former president Nelson Mandela has plunged the nation into a political debate before next year's elections. At Mandela's memorial service last week, current President Jacob Zuma was booed by the crowd - an act which some see as a potential turning point in South African politics. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Johannesburg voters are increasingly upset with the party that Mandela brought to power, the African National Congress.
Mandela’s Death Sparks Political Debates in South Africa
Anita Powell
The death of South African icon and former president Nelson Mandela has pushed the nation into a mass political debate ahead of next year's elections.  Voters are increasingly upset with the party that Mandela brought to power, the African National Congress.

Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.  His death has now sparked a serious political debate over the nation’s future and that of the ruling African National Congress party.  
An indication of public sentiment came on December 10 when current president, and ANC leader, Jacob Zuma, was roundly booed by a crowd of some 60,000 people who had gathered at Soweto’s FNB Stadium to mourn Mandela.
While the action was widely condemned as inappropriate at such a solemn occasion, it underscores a growing frustration here in South Africa by the general population as well as some longtime ANC supporters.
Zuma under fire
One of Mandela’s closest friends, lawyer George Bizos, summed up the people’s frustrations at a separate memorial.
“Who do our leaders think they are kidding by telling us they are following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela,” he said.
Earlier this month, South Africa's top anti-corruption official, Thuli Madonsela, issued her provisional report finding that Zuma spent some $20 million in government funds for upgrades to his personal home in rural KwaZulu-Natal province.
She said the expenditure far exceeded legitimate security needs and she recommended he repay the public and that parliament call him to account for ethics violations.
While Zuma had previously denied he used government funds, some of the public clearly sees this as more corruption in the upper echelons of the ANC.
A new poll conducted by the Sunday Times newspaper - and published on the day of Mandela’s burial -- found 51 percent of registered ANC voters say they want Zuma to resign.
Blaming the ANC
The ANC has dominated national politics since the end of apartheid in 1994.  South Africa may be free, but it is far from equal today, with black South Africans still on the bottom of the economic heap. Unemployment stands at a hefty 26 percent.
Adam Habib, vice chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says South Africans are mad about one main issue: the economy.
“I think the president’s been implicated around spending 206 million rand on his private residence.  I think this is creating a real anger at the base of society.  I mean, this coupled with the fact that we’ve had economic inequalities increase every single year for the last 19 years has created, if you like, an explosive moment,” said Habib.
Habib noted that the ANC appears to retain popularity in rural areas, where the party has a huge presence and is widely seen as responsible for all the improvements in South African society over the past two decades.
However, the mood in Johannesburg was further exposed on the eve of Mandela’s Sunday funeral, when a local news station aired a panel discussion on the future of South Africa.
“The ANC, because of its large electoral majority, feels invincible.” said political analyst Eusebius McKaiser, drawing cheers from the audience.  “You don’t show the electorate this kind of disrespect,” he said.
In the audience, there were boos, tears and jeers as panelists sparred over issues of inequality, racism and economics.
The last word came from an unlikely source: a small, frail old white woman in a pink jacket, who sat in the front row.  Her comment was brief.
“South Africa,” she said, ”is a much nicer place than it was in 1994.”
We’ll find out if voters agree, next year.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs