South Africa's ruling African National
Congress (ANC) party received a significant boost ahead of this year's election
after former President Nelson Mandela announced his support for the party
(Sunday). Mandela joined Jacob Zuma who is the leader of the ruling party at a rally in Eastern
Cape, which is expected to boost the morale of the party in the province. The province is expected to be a main battleground in the election after
the opposition COPE (Congress of the People) party reportedly targets the
province in the April 22 general election. The move is also expected to help the embattled ANC leader
Jacob Zuma in the general election since he still faces corruption
charges. Adams Habib is a political
analyst. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Mandela's approval is an
important symbolic gesture.
is significant in that Nelson Mandela has given his blessing. Nelson Mandela is
an icon in South Africa as he is in most parts of the world and having his
blessing is something that the ANC would want. I think it sends a very
important symbolic message that the most crucial figure and the more revered
political figure in South Africa is nevertheless backing the ANC and still with
the ANC. And I think that is something that the ANC would want to send that
message, especially given the fact they have had some competition from a new
black political party, Congress of the People (COPE)," Habib pointed out.
said there is some uncertainty whether Mandela's approval would change South
Africa's voting patterns.
it would fundamentally change the voting patterns in South Africa, I doubt
that. I think it's worth bearing in mind that many of the people would have
expected Nelson Mandela to actually back the ANC. There was very little
question that he would back another party and so nobody would have anticipated
anymore. So, in a lot of ways the electoral benefit would probably be
discounted as a result," he said.
said Mandela's approval would not necessarily rake in a lot of votes for the
ruling ANC in this year's general election.
think it's a symbolic sign that the ANC still retains its support that the
organization still has its support. But I don't think it would lead to any more
people going to the polls to vote for the ANC," Habib pointed out.
said former President Nelson Mandela chose Thabo Mbeki to succeed him on the
advice of his trusted friends and comrades.
for Nelson Mandela haven chosen Thabo Mbeki, he did really do that. But he did
that under the advice of the leadership of the ANC, particularly Walter Sisulu
at that point and the previous president of the ANC Oliver Tambo. And that is
why he did, but I don't think Thabo Mbeki was his first preference. And in 1997
he (Mandela) warned when Thabo Mbeki came to power that you need to be
magnanimous, you mustn't be conspiratorial, and that you mustn't be deal
devastatingly with political critics, you must accept political critics. And
all of those statements were warnings to Thabo Mbeki, and it was a warning that
Thabo Mbeki did not heed and ultimately Thabo Mbeki paid the cost for it," he
said embattled ANC president Jacob Zuma stands to benefit in the general
Zuma's case the symbolic affirmation of the ANC plays in Zuma's favor. Zuma is
the ANC president and when Nelson Mandela says he supports the party in this
election, he implicitly says that he supports Jacob Zuma as the candidate of
the ANC. And that is a huge boost for Jacob Zuma particularly within the party
there are question marks about him. There are a number of people associated
with Thabo Mbeki camp that have questioned his credibility and when Nelson
Mandela comes up in his support and in his favor that will bode well for him,"
Habib pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape
region where Sunday's rally was held is seen as a stronghold for the new
Congress of the People party (COPE) broke away from the ANC last year. COPE has
questioned the leadership of Zuma, who has been accused of corruption and could
end up on trial after the country's April 22 national election.
Mandela has refused to comment on divisions within his party,
which has led to some to think he sides with the anti-Zuma camp. That
speculation only increased when Mandela did not show up at the ANC's main rally
releasing its platform last month. Mandela instead sent a message of support
read by his daughter.
Sunday's appearance by Mandela was
considered his first time at an ANC campaign event before the election after
handing over to former President Thabo Mbeki.
The ANC said in a statement the
rally, reportedly attended by thousands, was part of the party's election
program, focusing on its manifesto for rural development.
Some political analysts say although
the opposition Congress of the People (COPE) party is not expected to win the
election. It could break the ANC's two-thirds majority in parliament, stopping
it from pushing through whatever legislation it wants.
COPE, which consists of mainly
supporters of former President Thabo Mbeki, has opened up the political
landscape in what some critics have described as akin to a one-party state. But
investors are reportedly concerned about uncertainty. Recent ANC power
struggles have hampered efforts to tackle issues such as widespread poverty,
one of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and an AIDS epidemic.