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South Africa Opposition Smells Upset in Municipal Elections

Schoolgirls walk past election posters for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, ahead of local government elections, July 29, 2016.
Schoolgirls walk past election posters for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, ahead of local government elections, July 29, 2016.

A member of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance said President Jacob Zuma’s rhetoric ahead of Wednesday’s municipal elections is a sign of desperation -that the once mighty African National Congress [ANC] may be losing ground to the opposition in terms of popularity.

President Zuma on Sunday admonished South Africans to vote for the ANC so that the party will continue to improve their lives.

The ANC controls a majority of the country’s 278 cities, but a new opinion poll shows the ANC is threatened in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth.

Sheila Camerer, a former South African ambassador and a member of the Democratic Alliance party said this time around, many South Africans will not listen to President Zuma because they feel their lives have not been improved under years of ANC rule.

“The statistics and opinion polls indicate that the ANC will have an uphill battle to hold on to three big metros in this country, namely Port Elizabeth, called Nelson Mandela Bay, or Pretoria, which is called Tshwane, and Johannesburg where the Democratic Alliance is polling ahead of the ANC in two of them and level pegging in Johannesburg with the ANC,” she said.

Camerer accused President Zuma of using all kinds of “peculiar rhetoric” to urge people to vote for the ANC.

“He said yesterday that the ancestors will come back to hunt everybody if they didn’t vote for the ANC, which is ridiculous. He’s also using a number of racist remarks in his urging for people to vote,” she said.

President Zuma defended the ANC at a Johannesburg rally on Sunday saying, "The ANC wants an end to all forms of corruption and will diligently pursue all those who are corrupt."

Zuma also said the opposition Democratic Alliance is a party that only cares for black people on the eve of an election. He said, "No white party can run this country."

President Zuma’s second term ends in 2019 and he is not eligible to run for president again. He also been plagued by allegations of corruption, and some say Wednesday’s municipal elections could be seen as a referendum on Zuma’s rule.

Camerer said this time around, some black South Africans are feeling disillusioned because they feel their lives have not improved greatly under nearly 22 years of ANC rule.

“The reason why they are not going to heed his call is that a majority of people that he’s appealing to feel that their lives haven’t been improved at all. And the only big city where one can say without contradiction that things have improved is the Western Cape and Cape Town which is controlled by the Democratic Alliance,” Camerer said.

But Zuma insisted Sunday that, "The ANC will ensure that all Local Municipalities, District Municipalities and Metropolitan cities achieve unqualified audits and spend their budgets on what has been approved in councils."

However Camerer said things are looking good for the Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties as the Wednesday vote approaches.

“And there is a serious chance that power can be taken away from the ANC in at least two of those metros, possibly or even probably in a coalition between opposition parties,” Camerer said.