An Overview Of South Africa’s Political Landscape – OpEd


South Africa heads to the polls on May 29. The expected final results will open a new dawn for its population estimated 62 million. It has passed through diverse difficulties and challenges at various stages of its democratic development since attaining political independence.

The African National Congress (ANC) is South Africa’s ruling party and has been in power since the end of apartheid. The party played a significant role in the liberation struggle and is considered the party of the people. Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the ANC led the country’s transition to democracy and has since dominated the political scene.

However, in recent years, the ANC has faced criticism for corruption, mismanagement, and a lack of delivery on its promises, which has led to a decline in its popularity. It faces criticisms from Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).

As South Africa continues to grapple with challenges related to corruption, unemployment, poverty, and inequality, the role of these parties in shaping the country’s future will be crucial. The upcoming general elections will be an important test of their influence and ability to address the pressing issues facing the nation.

In the most recent election, was held on 8th May 2019, the ANC won 58% of the vote and 230 seats, while the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, won 21% of the vote and 84 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded by Julius Malema, former president of the ANC Youth League who was later expelled from the ANC, won 11% of the vote and 44 seats. 

The election scheduled on May 29 portrays the lofty principle of democracy, equality and a better life for all South Africans. President Cyril Ramaphosa was last elected on the party ticket and now of the presidential candidates.

1) How are the preparations for the election on May 29 in South Africa:

•  The political situation in South Africa is stable. The country has a multi-party political system, which remains vibrant and strengthening the maturing democracy.

•  Government and opposition parties work closely to address the socio-economic challenges affecting the people.

•  Bill of Rights reaffirms that citizens have rights to form political parties and participate in their activities – parliament amended the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 to allow independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections.

2) The participating political parties and about the eligible voters

•  The strength of the South Africa multiparty political system was also demonstrated after the country successfully hosted the 2021 Local Government Elections – results thereof widely accepted as free and fair.

•  His Excellency, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, officially proclaimed that the 7th NPE will take place on 29 May 2024. 

•  Following this proclamation, the IEC published the election timetable, which outlines various activities that are to be completed until Election Day. The IEC confirmed that 27.7 million people have registered to vote in 2024 compared to 25.3 million and 26.7 million registered voters in 2014 and 2019 elections respectively. Of these, 58 802 South Africans will vote in foreign missions throughout the world.

3) How competitive is this forthcoming election in South Africa

•  It is worth noting that before and just after the declaration of the election date, over 300 political parties expressed their intention to contest the elections. There were also over 500 Independent candidates who intended to participate in the 2024 NPE. However, following the processes of verification and objections, only 70 political parties and 11 Independent candidates were published as final contestants in the 2024 NPE. Subsequently, the IEC issued certificates to 14 889 candidates who will contest the 887 seats in the 2024 NPE.

•  Registered voters who cannot vote at their voting station on Election Day due to pregnancy, infirmity, disability or work reasons will cast special votes on 27 – 28 May 2024. However, these individuals will not be able to cast their votes for provincial elections. They had to apply for special vote before 03 May 2024.

4) Who are observing the election process in the country?

•  Election Observer missions from both the African Union (AUEOM) and the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) will be involved in the 2024 NPE. This will ensure that South Africa upholds democratic standards, promotes transparency and contributes to the overall success of the electoral processes.

•  Political parties and independent candidates have shown political maturity in conducting their election campaigns so far. Despite ongoing court challenges involving the IEC and some political parties, preparations for the 2024 NPE are proceeding seamlessly.

The name “South Africa” is derived from the country’s geographic location at the southern tip of Africa. Upon formation, the country was named the Union of South Africa in English and Unie van Zuid-Afrika in Dutch, reflecting its origin from the unification of four British colonies. The long formal name in English has been the “Republic of South Africa” since 1961.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions. Its economy is mixed, the most industrialized and technologically advanced in Africa. It is the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria.

It is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), BRICS and a number of other international organizations. With its neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini, South Africa is located in the southernmost part of Africa.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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