A new frontier in South African politics – Firstpost

by MMC
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, center left, is greeted by supporters of the African National Congress as he arrives at the Mose Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, February 24, 2024, for the launch of the national manifesto of the ANC ahead of the 2024 general elections. PA

In the next general election in May, South Africa will see the emergence of a formidable new player: independents. Their impact on the political landscape, traditionally dominated by established parties such as the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), remains to be measured.

Notably, on April 17, 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Electoral Amendment Bill, a crucial measure that expands electoral inclusiveness. This legislation expands the range of candidates available to voters in national and provincial elections, promising a significant change in the dynamics of political participation.

Genesis of the law amending the electoral law

In 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling, declaring the existing electoral system unconstitutional. This decision stems from the system’s exclusive focus on political parties, neglecting to accommodate independent candidates for the National Assembly. Notably, before this judgment, independent candidates had the possibility of running for certain positions within local government.

The recent law revises the 1998 electoral law by a judgment of the Constitutional Court of June 11, 2020. This judgment declared the previous electoral law unconstitutional due to its requirement that membership in political parties was the only way to participate in elections to the National Assembly and provincial legislative assemblies. .

Following the court’s directive to deal with these matters within 24 months, Parliament undertook extensive public consultations through the National Parliament and the National Council of Provinces, but the deadline was extended twice. After a rigorous process, the bill was successfully passed on February 23, 2023 and officially signed into law in June 2023. The decision was anchored in respect for the rights of association, dignity and political freedoms, as stipulated in article 19 of the Constitution.

A political landscape of the ANC and DC

The ANC has historically been the dominant political party in South Africa since the end of apartheid and the country’s transition to democracy in 1994. The ANC played a leading role in the liberation struggle against apartheid and enjoys widespread support, particularly among black South Africans. He has won every national election since 1994, usually by a significant majority.

On the other hand, DA is the main opposition party in South Africa, also having its roots in the anti-apartheid movement. However, it has evolved into a liberal party that advocates a market economy and social justice. and non-racism. Although DA has greatly expanded its presence in South Africa, it has struggled to break the ANC’s hold on national politics.

Nonetheless, there is a window of hope for the DC in recent times, as the ANC has been criticized for issues such as corruption, poor service delivery and internal divisions.

“The decline in popularity of the ANC is part of a consistent trend observed since 2007 and is attributed to perceptions of growing systemic corruption within the party, the isolation of the ANC from ordinary South Africans and poor service delivery embodied by recurring power outages. South Africa also suffers from the burden of growing inequality, poverty and youth unemployment. More than 60 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, and many in South Africa’s sprawling townships struggle to find food. The long dominance of the ANC makes it difficult to escape responsibility for these popular grievances,” said one
conducted by the African Center for Strategic Studies in January this year.

On February 24, 2024, President Ramaphosa took center stage at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban to unveil the ANC manifesto in front of thousands of supporters. As the party in power for three decades, the ANC faces formidable obstacles, including growing poverty, soaring unemployment rates, rampant crime and a crippling electricity crisis. Yet these challenges are just the tip of the iceberg for President Ramaphosa. He also faces the looming shadow of his predecessor, former South African President Jacob Zuma, who backed a new political entity called uMkhonto weSizwe, directly challenging Ramaphosa’s leadership.

Furthermore, the internal divide within the ANC has widened considerably. Former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, ousted from the party for misconduct, spearheaded the creation of the African Congress for Transformation, further fracturing ANC unity. As dissent brews inside and outside the party, President Ramaphosa faces an uphill battle to maintain the ANC’s grip on power and navigate South Africa’s turbulent political landscape. South.

As the ANC grapples with growing challenges and fractures within its ranks, the DA sees an opportunity to chart a new course for South Africa. It will be interesting to see whether the DA, led by John Steenhuisen, will be able to write a new history given so many of the ANC’s vulnerabilities.

Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s third party in Parliament, has gained popularity since its inception in 2013 under the leadership of the expelled former Youth League president. ANC, Julius Malema. As a staunch defender of South African Marxist-Leninist principles and black nationalism, the EFF presents itself as a formidable political entity. Speculation is arising about the potential threat the EFF could pose to the ANC if it were to align with the DA, the main opposition party. However, the likelihood of such an alliance is minimal, given the deep-seated animosity and ideological differences between the EFF and DA.

Will independents have an impact?

The role that independents will play in the next election or, more importantly, in forming the new government will be clearer after the country votes on May 29. Given the opposition to power faced by the ANC and the DA’s struggle nationally, winning independent candidates may well become kingmakers.

With the changing political scenario, independent candidates, at least in some areas, can enjoy strong local support bases, thereby providing stiff competition to candidates from established political parties. Specific issues that can resonate with voters in their districts and are often underrepresented by traditional parties can help them gain an edge over political party candidates. If they do not win, independent candidates can potentially affect the outcome of an election in hotly contested races, leading to more fragmented results.
This will force political parties to think twice before attempting to destroy independent candidates.

Freelancers face a unique set of challenges. To qualify as candidates, independents must collect more than 6,000 signatures from eligible voters, a significantly higher threshold than the 1,000 signatures required for political parties already represented in the Legislature. Furthermore, the financial deposit required to participate in elections is often considered high, which constitutes a barrier to entry for both independents and political parties. Nevertheless, independents represent an essential wild card in the story of the upcoming national elections in May in South Africa.

Political analyst, author and speaker Melanie Verwoerd in her essay “Will Independents Really Make a Difference?” ” exactly
“Independents may not make a huge difference to the overall political landscape, but their voices will be a welcome change in an otherwise stale and – in the words of (Julius) Malema – increasingly boring political world.”

The opinions expressed in the article above are personal and solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Firstpost.

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