More than 23 million voters are set to vote Wednesday in South Africa's fourth democratic election since the collapse of apartheid. The ruling ANC expects a landslide victory, but rising corruption and poverty cast a long shadow over the ballot.
Over 23 million South African voters are summoned to the polls on Wednesday, April 22, to elect members of the National Assembly and other provincial parliaments. The new members of parliament will then be in charge of choosing a new president.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which draws its legitimacy from its decades-long fight against apartheid, hopes to win a two-third majority in the country's lower chamber. Its leader, Jacob Zuma, is almost certain to win the presidency after surviving charges of corruption and rape.
Yet, fifteen years after its first election victory, the ANC is struggling to deliver on pledges to root out poverty and corruption.
Over 43% of the country’s 48.5 million inhabitants live in poverty. While South Africa is the continent’s richest economy, unemployment is close to 40%.
Millions of people still live in shantytowns despite the government's promise to get rid of them after the end of apartheid.
According to the World Bank, the gap between South Africa’s richest and poorest is one of the largest in the world.
Zuma admitted in an interview with Reuters last month that the problem of poverty had actually got worse over the last 15 years.
“We will forge partnerships to reduce job losses, and ensure that our economy has a solid foundation for renewed growth once the recovery begins,” he said.
Yet for the country's poor, the numerous promises from past electoral campaigns have a hollow ring. Today, massive unemployment and the housing crisis are still at the heart of discussions.
As he attended one of Zuma’s giant rallies in Johannesburg, the 90-year-old former president Nelson Mandela reminded the ANC's leading candidate of the party’s objectives.
"The ANC has the historical responsibility to lead our nation and help build a united non-racial society,” he said.
Zuma backed his words, telling the crowd that "South Africa belongs to all of us, black and white. Working together we will ensure that no South African ever feels he is less valued than others because of his race, culture or religion."
Date created : 2009-04-20