Plummeting voter turnout and big gains for fringe parties at either end of the political spectrum are arguably signs of South Africa’s maturing democracy, however they could also be seen as evidence of a more divided society. The governing Africa National Congress (ANC) has limped on with a reduced majority but some difficult challenges lie ahead.
Many people are asking why the governing African National Congress (ANC) is happy after recording its worst performance since white minority rule ended in 1994 – 58 per cent share of the vote.
This is the first time the party that has led South Africa since 1994 has won less than 60 per cent of votes, but for an organisation that is hugely divided, riddled by corruption and has had a decade of lethargic leadership, this result is seen as a boost for its new leader Cyril Ramaphosa.
Many people see this as the ANC’s last chance to redeem itself.
Mr Ramaphosa took over the party in December 2017, after the ANC sacked Jacob Zuma, embroiled in corruption allegations, which he denies.
One of its senior members, Fikile Mbalula, said the party’s share of votes “would have probably dropped to 40 per cent” had its leadership not changed.
But the ANC shouldn’t celebrate too soon.
The people of South Africa may have given the ANC a mandate to lead, but it is not unconditional.
The last decade has been damaging to the party’s reputation and has alienated millions of South Africans who are desperate for their conditions to improve, and had trusted the ANC to do that, but instead they got worse.
Growth has been slow here, millions are unemployed and society remains hugely unequal.
Now begins a tough juggling act for Mr Ramaphosa – the act of restoring confidence in his government and more importantly delivering on his promise to fight corruption.
The ANC has been accused of putting its own survival ahead of the interests of the country. How Mr Ramaphosa chooses his cabinet will be the first indication of whether that has changed.
It’s the first election in which the party’s vote share has not grown. In fact, it lost some of its conservative supporters to the more radical Freedom Front Plus (VF+), a right-wing, mainly Afrikaner minority party. –BBC