South Africa’s ANC faces tough poll test

Anger over corruption, the faltering economy and land reform are key issues as South Africans vote in the sixth democratic national election since apartheid ended 25 years ago.

Young people queuing to vote have been speaking of their difficulties in finding jobs, with unemployment at 27 per cent.

The African National Congress (ANC), which led the fight against apartheid, has governed the country since 1994.

But its support has eroded as large inequalities have remained.

The centrist Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are its the main challengers.

“I’m a member of the ANC but I didn’t vote for them this time,” construction worker Thabo Makhene told the Reuters news agency.

“They need to catch a wake-up. The way they run the state, mishandling state funds, they’ve lost their morals.”

Esau Zwane, 90, waiting to vote in Soweto, Johannesburg, lived under white-minority rule. He told the BBC he was celebrating “that our country is now ruled by black people”.

A young voter said that her future employment prospects were on her mind. “I don’t feel confident about getting the job I want,” she said.

There are concerns about voter apathy. Despite more than 26 million people registering to vote, the highest number in South Africa’s history, local surveys suggest that six million people under the age of 30 are not on the electoral roll.

For most of the day, the lines here at the polling station in the Johannesburg suburb of Norwood have been relatively long.

People have braved the winter chill and some rain to vote in what is being seen here as one of the most hotly contested polls since the first democratic elections 25 years ago.

The ballot paper is half a metre long, filled with new political parties including a former residence association, and a pro-local content media group.

Two young women in their 20s, who are voting for the first time, told me they don’t believe promises made by any of the parties, especially the promise to create jobs. They say they are voting out of a sense of obligation.

Another man tells me he is happy with the leaders of the three major parties. “It’s the best it has ever been,” he said.

The location of Norwood polling station reflects some of the key electoral issues, especially the economic inequality that South Africa has come to be known for.


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