On Aug. 3, South Africans go to the polls to vote in the country’s fifth local government elections since the end of apartheid. Although municipal elections seldom draw much international attention, this year the stakes are particularly high in South Africa. Since it championed the struggle to liberate the country from apartheid under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress has dominated South African politics and easily maintained a loyal voter base. But more than 20 years since the end of apartheid, all is not well in “the rainbow nation.”
President Jacob Zuma has been plagued by scandal — with over 700 charges pending against him (the charges were recently reinstated by a high court after a failed appeal attempt), the president has been embroiled in corruption charges after he spent public money on costly upgrades to his private luxury estate. Rising economic woes, poor service delivery and rampant inequality have spurred numerous protests across the country.
Many of these demonstrations have turned violent, and the South African Human Rights Commission has registered its concern about the increase in politically related killings ahead of the elections.
The ANC is now poised to lose some of its urban strongholds — a development that would signal the end of the party’s exclusive grip on power, and could usher in the beginning of some precarious coalition politics in advance of what would undoubtedly be a highly contested national election in 2019.
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