South Africa. The government announced in February that it had decided to start a fund to create new jobs. Over the next three years, the equivalent of SEK 9 billion would be put into the fund in the hope of being able to push down unemployment, which is still a major problem despite strong economic growth over a number of years. In July, open unemployment was set at 25.7%, but it only included those who were actively seeking employment. If those who gave up the hope of finding a job were included, the figure would be 33.9%. Unofficially, the real unemployment rate was believed to be around 40%.
As a result of unemployment, the need for support from society is great. In April, the Minister of Social Affairs said that 30% of South Africans receive social support in some form. Among them are more than ten million children. 10% of government spending goes towards social support. Of the nearly 50 million residents, only 5.9 million earn so much that they have to pay income tax. According to the government, the deep social divisions are a continuing legacy of the inequality built up under the apartheid system.
As noted by Abbreviationfinder, another problem in today’s South Africa is corruption, which extends high up into the upper strata of society. The more prominent suspected corruption havens in recent years relate to the large arms purchases that South Africa made in 1999 from a number of countries, including Sweden, which sold 26 JAS 39 Gripen planes. A few people were convicted in the early 00’s for bribery, but then the issue stopped. In September, the government decided that the investigations should be resumed. following Swedish TV disclosures that at least SEK 24 million was paid to an employee of the then South African Minister of Defense for order fulfillment of the JAS plan.
In October, President Zuma dismissed two ministers and shut down the chief of police after all three were identified in corruption arrests. The fact that the president went so hard against close allies was interpreted as an attempt to show the opposition that he was serious about trying to quell corruption. On the other hand, the layoffs were believed to be able to give him enemies within the ANC government party ahead of the 2012 party elections.. Already in 2010, the song was banned by the court, but since he appealed, the case was again dragged through the court system. The beat became the same: the song spread rashly and Malema was forbidden to sing it.
The controversial Malema was also the subject of an internal disciplinary inquiry within the ANC for breaking a number of party rules and breaking the party within a number of points. Among other things, he had put the government in an embarrassing situation by advocating that the government in Botswana – the “United States doll” – should be replaced. The verdict was that Malema was dismissed as the leader of the youth union and was suspended from the ANC for five years. Despite this, he could later be elected to the board of the ANC’s provincial branch in Limpopo with the explanation that the shutdown will not gain legal force until his appeal has been tried.
The government also received stinging criticism from the opposition and the outside world for proposing a law on “protection of information”, which was feared to lead to serious restrictions on freedom of expression. The law proposed that all authorities should have the right to protect confidential information and that leaks should be punished with imprisonment for up to 25 years. Similarly, a media tribunal could punish “bad journalism”. The criticism caused the government to back down partially. It promised to abolish the mandatory prison sentence and said that only authorities with direct responsibility for the security of the state would have the right to freely disclose information. The opposition objected to the lack of a clear definition of the concept of “the security of the kingdom”. The law was passed by a large majority of the parliament’s lower house in November and is expected to be considered by the upper house in 2012.
More criticism was given to the government when it did not give the Tibetan leader and peace prize Dalai lame visa for being able to attend former Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday. The government blamed the slow handling of the visa application and denied that it had bowed to Chinese pressure.
The ANC won as expected big in the nationwide local elections in May, but the takeover against the largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) shrank. The DA, which has so far mainly attracted whites and so-called colored ones, made an attempt in October to further win support among the majority of the population by, for the first time, electing a black for its group leader in parliament.
The ANC’s dominance
The ANC has strengthened its position since 1994. From 63 percent in the first election it increased at the next election in 1999 and reached almost 70 percent in 2004. Then it went down and was 63 percent at the 20th anniversary in 2014. At the election in 2019, for the first time, the ANC was below 60 percent of the vote with 58 percent. The 2019 elections were nevertheless a success compared to the poor municipal elections in 2014 where they ended up at 54 percent.
The strong position in elections is due to the huge support the party has among African voters. The African population today accounts for around 80 percent, and until recently, 80-90 percent of these have supported the ANC. The Inkatha party, with almost 11 percent in 1994, was down 3.4 percent in 2019.
The ANC, on the other hand, has little support among white voters and has also lost a lot of support among the other minorities, especially among the colored ones, where the majority now supports the opposition. This – along with the support of outbreaks from the ANC – greatly contributed to the ANC losing its pure majority in the major cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria) and Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elisabeth) in the municipal elections in 2014.
However, the ANC’s strong position covers increasing conflicts and dividing lines within the party. There have been a number of divisions and new party formation as a result, but most of the outbreak has after a short time been marginalized. One of the ANC’s most popular leaders, Bantu Holomisa, was excluded in 1997 and started his own party, the UDM, but it never became anything but a regional party in the Eastern Cape province. It gained 3.4 percent in the 1999 election, but since 2014 it has been below 1 percent. The next party split came 10 years later with the formation of the COPE party in the wake of a riotous ANC leadership battle where the majority, led by Jacob Zuma, cast the then party leader and president, Thabo Mbeki. COPE gained 7.4 percent in the subsequent parliamentary elections in 2009, but fell to 0.7 percent in the next election in 2014.
The next party split came in 2013 and should prove far more serious. The excluded youth leader of the ANC, Julius Malema, started a new party – Economic Freedom Fighters – in 2013. These gained 6.4 percent in 2014 and 10.8 percent in 2019. The turnout was particularly high in inland provinces and in big cities such as Johannesburg. Here they got a lot of support especially among young African voters. The party mobilized on the growing discontent and frustration with the ANC’s leadership and the growing corruption under President Jacob Zuma. The party has a clear left-populist profile. Throughout 2019, the party was hit by a number of corruption charges in its own ranks.
The biggest threat to the ANC’s persistent hegemony and domination comes from the major demolitions within the party. This has persisted with the ongoing settlement of the abuse of power and corruption that developed during Jacob Zuma’s leadership period until he was dismissed and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.
The traditional opposition, rooted in the white minority – which now accounts for less than 10 percent of the population – has undergone major changes. The Nationalist Party with 20 percent in 1994 has declined sharply before it ended at 1.7 percent in 2004 and disbanded (and the remains went into the ANC). What is today the Democratic Alliance – with its traditional roots among English-speaking whites – gained 1.7 percent in 1994, but throughout the latter half of the 1990s, they became the dominant party among white voters and gained nearly 10 percent in 1999.
Over the next 10-15 years, the Democratic Alliance also managed to mobilize a majority of colored voters behind the party, which gave the 16.7 percent to the 2009 election. At the same time, they gained control of the Western Cape Province and Cape Town city the majority of voters belong to the colored minority. The next step was the attempt to gain entry among African voters, especially in the big cities. This gave some growth to 22.2 percent in 2014 before declining to 20.8 percent in 2019. The last was a sharp decline compared to the municipal elections in 2016, where they received almost 27 percent of the votes.
At the 2019 election, the party also lost many white voters to the right-wing Freedom Front Plus. This triggered old conflicts in the party and led the party’s first African leader, Mmusi Maimane, to resign and later resigned, while former white leaders again took control of the party.