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The main candidates in the 2009 election

Video by Hayde FITZPATRICK , Graham WALSH

Latest update : 2009-04-23

Though the ruling African National Congress is expected to win at least 60% of the vote on Wednesday, opposition parties hope to change South Africa's political landscape in the country's fourth election since the end of apartheid.

Reuters - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is widely expected to win a general election on April 22 with party leader Jacob Zuma becoming president.

Here are some facts on South Africa's political parties and their leaders.

African National Congress (ANC)

-- Led by Zuma, who portrays himself as a champion of the poor, the African National Congress has dominated South Africa since Nelson Mandela became president after the end of apartheid in 1994. It won over 70 percent of the vote in 2004.

-- Prosecutors recently dropped corruption charges that had dogged Zuma for years, but on a technicality. That means his leadership may remain tainted by questions over his innocence. He denies any wrongdoing.

-- Zuma was deputy president for six years until 2005. He was sacked by then President Thabo Mbeki after he was implicated in a graft trial. Zuma, acquitted of separate rape charges in 2006, says he has been the victim of a political conspiracy.

-- In office, he would face the dilemma of trying to please both left-leaning union allies, who helped him defeat Mbeki for the ANC leadership and who want more interventionist policies, and foreign investors worried about a shift to the left.

-- The South African Native National Congress was formed in 1912 after laws denying political rights for black people and changed its name to the African National Congress. It fought against the racist apartheid system established in 1948.

-- Mandela was freed in 1990 after 27 years in jail and led the ANC to victory in the first all-race election in 1994. Mbeki was elected in 1999 after Mandela stepped down and re-elected in 2002. Mbeki was forced out as president last year afterbeing accused of meddling in the graft trial of Zuma.


Congress of the People (COPE)

-- Led by Bishop Mvume Dandala, COPE was formed by breakaway members of the ANC after the ruling party forced Thabo Mbeki to step down as president last year. It has played the moral card and hopes to win over voters tired of the scandals around Zuma.

-- COPE set out to pose the biggest challenge to the ANC since 1994 but its campaign seems to have lost some steam.

-- Analysts have expressed doubts about COPE's effectiveness as it was born out of anger with the ANC leadership and has made the same vague promises as the ANC on issues such as poverty.

-- In 2002, Dandala received one of South Africa's highest orders for his role in the struggle against apartheid. Dandala was also involved in peace talks in Kenya in early 2008, following post-election violence there.

Democratic Alliance (DA)


-- White Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille is dubbed "Godzille" for her no-nonsense style as leader of what is South Africa's official opposition party, having won 12 percent of the vote in the last election in 2004.

-- The Democratic Alliance, formerly known as the Democratic Party (DP), espouses liberal democracy and free market principles. It has repeatedly failed to attract black voters.

-- Zille became the DA's most prominent figure in 2006 when she led a coalition to take control of Cape Town, making it the only major city not under ANC control.

-- An anti-apartheid activist and journalist, she helped expose the murder of liberation struggle activist Steve Biko, beaten to death by apartheid security agents in 1977, despite harassment from the authorities.

-- As Cape Town mayor, she fought against drug abuse, and sought to improve growth, and employment. Since taking over the DA leadership in 2007, Zille has earned the grudging respect of the leadership of the ANC, which has made several unsuccessful attempts to unseat her as mayor.


Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

-- Mangosuthu Buthelezi, 80, has led the IFP since he founded it as the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement in 1975. His political career dates back to the 1940s, when he joined the ANC Youth League at university.

-- Buthelezi became home affairs minister in 1994 but the party quit government in 2004, a move analysts said confirmed its decline from national agitator to provincial party.

-- Its fortunes may well flag further in this election if Zuma wins over voters in his Zulu heartland, which is also Inkatha's power base.

-- Tensions between the ANC and Inkatha go back to the apartheid era when the two fought over control of KwaZulu-Natal, the traditional home of the Zulu tribe. Thousands were killed in clashes between them at the time.

-- One of a few high profile South African figures to talk candidly about the HIV/AIDS, Buthelezi in 2004 publicly lamented the loss of two of his children to AIDS.

Date created : 2009-04-21