Thursday, April 23, 2009

South African Elections Update: It's Z-Time; ANC Wins Large Majority in National Poll

It's Z-time


It was an easy win for the ANC. But what quickly emerged early on Thursday and was clear by late afternoon was that a shift had occurred in the South African political landscape.

With the Democratic Alliance taking a respectable chunk of the vote and the Congress of the People following not too far behind, the smaller parties seemed to have all but disappeared from the election scoreboard -- raising the prospect of a two- or three-party system in the near future.

The DA and Cope hoped to capitalise on the turnout in the hotly contested urban areas, which might further dent the ruling party’s chances of reaching a two-thirds majority. By 4pm on Thursday millions of votes from the cities had not yet reached the IEC’s nerve centre in Pretoria.

The ANC first broke through the two-thirds margin late on Thursday afternoon and was counting on outstanding votes to keep it above 68,14%.

Election officials blamed the slow progress on the high voter turnout in urban areas. Early indications were that turnout could reach 80% nationally, the highest figure since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The uncounted votes in key areas made it impossible to say with certainty whether the ANC under Jacob Zuma had outperformed the party of Thabo Mbeki.

Although the ANC shed votes to the DA and Cope, it was hugely boosted by the collapse of Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party, which all but imploded on Wednesday at the ballot box.

Boosted by the ethnic factor, Zuma’s party had won more than two-thirds of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal, with the IFP pegged back from its 35% figure in 2004 to just more than 23%.

Small parties such as the Independent Democrats (ID) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) struggled to hold on to their parliamentary seats and were expected to see their support drop to 1,2% and 1,1% respectively. The IFP ruled the province from 1994 to 2004.

The IFP managed to garner 7% of the national vote in the 2004 election but dropped to a dismal 3,7% on Thursday. Newcomer Cope was expected to get between 7% and 8% of the national vote, which primarily comes from former ANC supporters. Cope was supposed to be the exciting new arrival on the political block with its party leaders insisting that it would garner more than 50% of the national vote.

But its leaders were largely absent from the election results centre in Pretoria as it became clear that their hope of becoming the ruling party had been utterly dashed.

In some provinces, including Limpopo, the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape, Cope was threatening the position of the DA as official opposition. But the overwhelming vote in these provinces still went to the ANC. At national level Cope was not expected to exceed the 10% mark.

For the first time since 2004 an opposition party was set to take control of a provincial government. The DA outshone its competitors in the Western Cape in the race to rule the province.

It was expected that it will achieve an outright majority there, winning more than 50% of the vote and being placed to govern without having to form a coalition.

The DA claimed it had managed to secure the province by taking votes from the ID, the ANC and the former New National Party, which contested the 2004 elections. The party’s increase in support was ascribed to the inroads made in the coloured communities in the Western Cape, more Indian voters, who previously supported the Minority Front, and a high turnout of the party’s traditionally white support base.

Party insiders expected the DA to garner 16% of the national vote, up from 12% in the previous election.

By late Thursday afternoon the ANC was set to win two-thirds majorities in the legislatures of the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

In Gauteng only one-fifth of the votes had been counted by late Thursday. On Thursday evening, the ANC was standing on 62,29%, the DA on 24,49% and Cope on 7,39% in the country’s richest and most populous province.

Solid performances by Cope (16,64%) and the DA (13,18%) in the Northern Cape may prevent the ANC from attaining a two-thirds majority there.

Polling day on Wednesday was marred by complaints by opposition parties about voting stations running out of ballot papers and a case of electoral fraud in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal, where a ballot box stuffed with voting papers marked for the IFP was found at a polling station.

The IEC admitted to running out of ballot boxes and unmarked boxes were used to store votes. The IEC blamed electoral legislation, which allows for voters to vote at any polling station.

The commission hurriedly printed an extra two million ballot papers to make up the difference, but when voting closed on Wednesday evening they had not been needed.

The slow counting in the metros clouded early indications of support for the DA and Cope, whose voters are based mainly in urban areas.

The murder of a leading Cope leader also put a blight on the peaceful conduct of Wednesday’s polling.

Cope officials at the IEC’s results centre said they believed that the killing of Gerald Yona was a political murder. The IEC said on Thursday that it was closely monitoring the police investigation of the case and had taken note of Cope’s allegations.

Yona (38) was a “zonal coordinator” -- a title peculiar to the interim structures of the new political party -- in Motherwell, in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

He and his wife and children were attacked by three men with handguns. His wife was injured and was taken to hospital, but later discharged.

Cope provincial spokesperson Nkosifikile Gqomo said that the children had escaped injury. No arrests have been made.

The old liberation movements, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the Azanian People’s Liberation (Azapo), were obliterated from the political map as each won less than 1% of the vote.

They have each held a seat or two since 1994, but the result on Thursday afternoon suggested they could both be without representation in the National Assembly for the first time.

Their offshoots, the Pan Africanist Movement (PAM) and the African People’s Convention (APC), also did not feature on the results map.

Additional reporting by Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Zuma cheered as ANC heads for win

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma appeared before a cheering crowd, as his party headed for a clear victory in South Africa's general election.

Mr Zuma - set to be the next president - said the ANC had put across its policies and people had understood.

With about half of all ballots in, the ANC had about 66% of the vote.

But it is still not clear whether the party will retain the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to push through constitutional changes.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has about 16% and the Congress of the People - formed as a direct challenge to the ANC - is trailing with about 8%.

The DA was ahead in Western Cape province, which is currently controlled by the ANC, with almost 50% of the vote.

Wednesday's poll was the country's fourth, and most competitive, general election since the end of apartheid 15 years ago.

Election officials put turn-out at about 77%. Formal election results are not expected until much later on Thursday or on Friday.

'Voters understood'

In Johannesburg, crowds of ANC supporters dressed in the party's black, yellow and green attended a celebration rally.
ANC: 66.5%
Democratic Alliance: 16%
Cope: 8%
Votes counted: 53%
Turnout: 77% Source: IEC
"I would like to thank you for tonight," Jacob Zuma told the crowd, after dancing on stage.

"We went to the voters of this country, talked to them and put across our polices - and they have understood what we are saying," he said.

Parliament will elect South Africa's next president by a simple majority, putting Mr Zuma in line for the post when the new assembly votes in May.

Mr Zuma, a populist who spent 10 years in prison during the apartheid era for ANC membership, faces challenges including a struggling economy and soaring violent crime.

Charges of corruption against the 67-year-old were dropped just two weeks before the poll after state prosecutors said there had been political interference in the case.

'Doubled our numbers'

The election commission said it was pleased with the peaceful way in which the poll was conducted.

Leaders of the rival parties said that the early results brought some positive news.

DA leader Helen Zille said her party was pleased. "We are just above 50% in the Western Cape, that is what we were hoping for because it means we have doubled our numbers since last time," she said.

The Cope leader, former Bishop Mvume Dandala, told the BBC that the party did not see the result as a rejection. "We are saying that we have been given a critical mass upon which to build," he said.

Cope was formed by ANC dissidents who supported former President Thabo Mbeki, who resigned last year after losing a power struggle with Mr Zuma.

Analysts say Cope's emergence energised the early stages of the election campaign but the party's popularity seems to have diminished in recent weeks.

It is thought that Cope and the DA could enter into a coalition after the election, presenting a real threat to the ANC's continued dominance of South Africa.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/04/23 19:39:29 GMT

Profile: Jacob Zuma

As leader of the African National Congress, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma looks set to become South Africa's next president.

Barely four years ago, his political career was all but written off when he was simultaneously battling sleazy allegations of rape and corruption - double charges which would have sunk the career of many politicians.

Mr Zuma was acquitted of rape, but the corruption case proved harder to shake off.

The 66-year-old always denied charges of money-laundering and racketeering, stemming from a controversial $5bn (£3.4bn) 1999 arms deal and had said he would resign if found guilty of wrong-doing.

A judge dismissed the charges in 2008 but an appeals court later ruled the charges could be resurrected.

The ANC said the accusations against its leader were politically motivated and insisted Mr Zuma would lead the governing party into the spring elections, even if the proceedings did continue.

School of hard knocks

In the end that was not necessary. Just weeks before April's polls, the National Prosecution Authority threw out the case after finding phone-tap evidence suggested there had been political interference in the investigation.

Mr Zuma's supporters say his charismatic popular touch is a refreshing contrast to former President Thabo Mbeki, who was seen as rather aloof.

June 2005: Sacked as deputy president
October 2005: Charged with corruption
December 2005: Charged with rape
April 2006: Acquitted of rape charges
September 2006: Corruption case collapses
December 2007: Elected ANC president; re-charged with corruption shortly afterwards
September 2008: Judge rules corruption case cannot proceed
January 2009: Prosecutors win appeal, opening the way for Zuma to be recharged
6 April 2009: Prosecutors drop charges after receiving new phone-tap evidence
22 April 2009: Elections due

"He is a man who listens; he doesn't take the approach of an intellectual king," said one unnamed supporter, in an apparent swipe at Mr Mbeki.

Born in 1942 and brought up by his widowed mother in Zululand, Mr Zuma had no formal schooling.

He joined the ANC at the age of 17, becoming an active member of its military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe, in 1962.

He was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and imprisoned for 10 years on the notorious Robben Island, alongside Nelson Mandela.

Mr Zuma is reportedly to have helped keep up morale among the incarcerated ANC grandees with songs and impromptu theatre.

The Zulu traditionalist subsequently left South Africa, living first in Mozambique, then Zambia as he rose through the ANC ranks to the executive committee.

He became one of the first leaders to return home in 1990 - when the ban on the ANC was removed - to take part in negotiations with the white minority government.

He credits his political awakening to a family member who was an active trade unionist.

Man of the people

Throughout his political career, Mr Zuma, popularly known as "JZ", has honed his image as a champion of the poor and oppressed.

He enjoys strong support among trade unionists and the communist party - an ANC ally - as they believe he will redistribute South Africa's wealth in favour of the poor.

They say Mr Mbeki was too business-friendly and had presided over "jobless growth".

But Mr Zuma has told the BBC that he would not change the ANC's economic policy.

"The ANC is going to move as it moves, and change its leadership as the time comes, but keeping its direction - so nothing is going to change."

Some fear that Mr Zuma's populism could go too far and are concerned by his habit of singing the apartheid-era anthem -"Umshini wami" (Bring Me My Machine-Gun) - at his rallies.

Like many leaders of his Zulu community, Mr Zuma is a polygamist.

He has been married at least four times - he wed Sizakele Khumalo in 1973 and took Nompumelelo Ntuli as his wife in 2008.

He is divorced from Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, while Kate Mantsho Zuma died in 2000.

In January 2009 it was reported that he was planning to tie the knot again - to his fiancee, Thobeka Mabhija.

In 2006, Mr Zuma was acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend.

But his statement during the trial that he showered after unprotected sex with the woman to guard against possible infection provoked criticism and ridicule and some analysts predicted he would divide the women's vote.

But his popularity seems undiminished, especially among his fellow Zulus.

His victory over Mr Mbeki in December in 2007 to become ANC president was described on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website as having "confounded the analysts, revealing that the media and political commentators are out of touch with sentiment in the ANC".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/04/23 10:48:49 GMT

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