JOHANESBURG — With South Africa’s national elections settled, the country is looking at its most fractious parliament in years, with a surge in opposition representation.
South Africa’s longtime ruling party, the African National Congress, easily won the election battle, taking 62 percent of the nation’s votes in last week election.
But with a surge in opposition representation in parliament the next five years in South Africa promise to provide great political entertainment.
In terms of legislation, what happens in the next five years largely boils down to the decisions of the ANC, which won 249 of 400 parliamentary seats. But since the ANC does not get along with its biggest rival, the Democratic Alliance, that result has made unlikely kingmakers of the rowdy, far-left upstart Economic Freedom Fighters, which grabbed six percent of the national vote.
The EFF is led by rabble-rousing politician Julius Malema, who was kicked out of the ANC several years ago.
Analyst Aubrey Matshiqi says the fact the ANC lost its former two-thirds majority may force it to seek some strange bedfellows.
“If the ANC needs a two-thirds majority to pass certain laws, or to change the constitution in certain ways, because it did not get a two-thirds majority on its own, it might have to negotiate with Julius Malema, so that together the ANC and the EFF can get such a two-thirds majority,” said Matshiqi.
Critics of the ANC say it needs all the help it can get. Party leader President Jacob Zuma is entering his second term with a target on his back, a corruption scandal in which he is accused of spending $23 million of public money to renovate his private home.
A parliamentary investigation was dropped days before the vote because Mr. Zuma’s party said there was not enough time to complete their work before the election. Mr. Zuma’s critics in parliament, and there are more than ever before with the ANC coming out of this vote losing 15 seats, are expected renew attacks on the president's integrity.
The nation’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, continued to pick up supporters, winning about 22 percent nationally. But days after the election, the party suffered a big loss when outspoken, quick-witted DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko announced she is leaving to study at Harvard.
DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane says the party will go on without her.
“Lindiwe Mazibuko is an individual in a party that has got some great systems. The reality is, as a party, individuals come and go, but the party remains. And I think the loss of Lindiwe Mazibuko, I do not see it as a loss, I think she is someone who is going to Harvard to go study. She will return and will serve the DA in a different capacity if she chooses to do so,” said Maimane.
Maimane says the party will focus on efforts to gain supporters, particularly in urban areas like Johannesburg, where the ANC barely hung on to its majority.
Analyst Matshiqi says the urban-rural divide will continue to plague the ANC.
“The outcome of this years elections suggests that in metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg, the ANC is in trouble. ... Now, if it does not achieve an absolute majority in Johannesburg in 2016, what might happen for it to stay in government in Johannesburg, it might have to negotiate with the Economic Freedom Fighters and therefore become part of a coalition, a majority in Johannesburg.”
Mr. Zuma has previously described his nation as a young democracy, one that is figuring out what it wants to be. Those awkward years, it seems, are coming during his second term.