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S. Africa Elections Could Be Most Significant in 30 Years

S. Africa Elections Could Be Most Significant in 30 Years

A Nelson Mandela mural in Williamsburg section in Brooklyn on June 21, 2014. (Dreamstime)

Robert Zapesochny By Thursday, 23 May 2024 11:15 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Last month marked 30 years since the end of apartheid, celebrated with South Africa’s first multi-racial election. On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela, the newly elected president, delivered a memorable inauguration speech.

He said, “We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity — a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

When President Mandela died in 2013, Anne Applebaum wrote a thought-provoking column about the African National Congress:

“After all, without Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC) — the party he joined in 1943 and led a half-century later to electoral victory — quickly loses whatever remains of its revolutionary magic. Without Mandela, the ANC can no longer pretend to be a party, as he once put it, with a ‘noble cause’: It is simply the party of power.”

This reckoning is now at our doorstep with the 2024 election. The ANC has been steadily losing its appeal for years.

The National Assembly of South Africa has a total of 400 seats. The ANC support has declined from a peak of 279 seats in 2004 to just 230 seats in 2019.

While I believe the ANC will win the most seats in this election, it could lose its majority. If they had to form a coalition government, it would force the ANC to reckon with its failures.

The ANC’s track record is one of corruption and failure.

Economic Stagnation

In the first decade after apartheid, South Africa’s economy grew at 3.6% a year from 1994 to 2008. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that per capita growth has stalled for a decade.

In August 2023, South Africa’s unemployment was 33%, with youth unemployment at a staggering 61%.

According to the IMF, in South Africa (2020), “The top 20% of the population holds over 68% of income (compared to a median of 47% for similar emerging markets).”

The income gap exists in part due to a skills gap between blacks and whites.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Prize in 1984, he said, “Apartheid has spawned discriminatory education, such as Bantu Education, education for serfdom, ensuring that the Government spends only about one tenth on one black child per annum for education what it spends on a white child.”

Despite considerable progress since 1994, a significant racial gap persists in higher education. In 2021, 29.3% of whites had a college degree, compared to just 3.4% of blacks.


From 2022 to 2023, South Africa had a homicide rate of 45 murders for every 100,000 people, according to the Associated Press. In the same article, it was reported that the United States had 6.3 murders for every 100,000 people in 2022.


For over two decades, South Africa has consistently led the world in the number of people living with HIV. In 2002, approximately 5 million of the 40 million people worldwide with HIV/AIDS were South African.

By the end of 2022, this number had risen to 7.6 million out of 39 million globally. The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa can be partly attributed to its former President Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008), who initially denied the crisis.


Rampant corruption plagues the ANC, as numerous officials are embroiled in scandals, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma.

The ANC's political dominance fosters inevitable corruption, especially when allocating funds to powerful state-owned enterprises. Eskom, which is responsible for the country’s energy crisis and years of rolling blackouts, is a prime example.

According to the IMF, the country’s energy crisis has forced ANC leaders to “ease the registration process and licensing requirements for energy production to encourage private sector investment.”

Eskom produces 95% of South Africa’s electricity. Economic competition, and other structural reforms, will not happen until the ANC loses its majority in parliament.

Alongside power shortages, South Africans are also contending with unprecedented water shortages. Ironically, Israel’s water technology was providing clean water for half a million South Africans in 2023.

Israel is one of the world’s leading nations in water technology. Last year, it sent a delegation to South Africa to try to help them with their water challenges.

Instead of focusing on South Africa’s problems, the ANC took legal action against Israel in the International Court of Justice in December 2023.

South Africans have the power to bring about change by voting against the ANC. It is a crucial step towards realizing Nelson Mandela’s vision of a prosperous Rainbow Nation.

Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.

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While I believe the ANC will win the most seats in this election, it could lose its majority. If they had to form a coalition government, it would force the ANC to reckon with its failures.
south africa, anc, elections
Thursday, 23 May 2024 11:15 AM
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