JOHANNESBURG — South Africans are preparing for elections scheduled for May 7, and some former officials with the ruling ANC have called for a protest vote against the party during next week's balloting. For millions of South Africans still living without basic services, change promised by Nelson Mandela's historic party is taking too long to occur.
As they sing the praises of South African opposition leader Julius Malema and his party, the EFF, many of these red beret supporters used to sport different colors: those of Nelson Mandela's party, the ANC, which contributed to ending white minority rule 20 years ago. After two decades in power, however, the ruling party has alienated some supporters who still don't see the improvements the historic liberation party promised them.
"I was supporting the ANC before. Service delivery, unemployment, crime, lots of things that are not happening. The promises that are not delivered to the community. That is one of the reasons that I've changed to EFF," said former ANC supporter Tifo Moeng.
Like Tifo Moeng, more and more South Africans are losing patience because of these issues. While progress has been made, more than half the country's population still lives under the poverty line, and numerous violent protests across the country have happened in recent years.
Social tension peaked two years ago in the town of Marikana, resulting in police officers shooting dead more than 30 miners who were demanding salary increases.
More recently, anti-corruption protests erupted in the township of Bekkersdal, 50 kilometers from Johannesburg. With no water, no electricity and shacks for permanent homes, most residents say nothing has changed in 20 years.
"I'm angry with the ANC. Always, ANC used to promise us everything : jobs, houses; but because of now we are going to vote, they promise us houses, said Buti Tale. "How many years, we are living here, in Bekkersdal? "
Buti Tale used to vote for the ANC but now votes for the main opposition party. History lecturer Noor Nieftagodien said the ANC has been trying to improve people's lives, but not always in a sustainable way, and that is what contributes to people's current frustration.
"Gains made over the last 20 years have been significant. The fact is more people now live in houses than ever before. Now, that access is problematic. The houses are not good houses. People often get cut off from electricity. Education is in a bad state There are gains, but the gains are being undermined. And we're at the point where more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the gains that have been made by the new democracy and by the ANC are being reversed," he said.
Despite the discontent among some voters, a new poll shows the ANC is expected to win about 64 percent of the vote.