The African National Congress, in power in South Africa since majority rule in 1994, won again in last Wednesday’s general elections.
It took 62 percent of the vote, slightly down from its nearly 66 percent in 2009. President Jacob G. Zuma, who is likely to be given a second and final term when the National Assembly convenes on May 21, was hoping that his party might capture two-thirds of the body’s 400 seats, which would have enabled it to change the constitution. In second place was the racially mixed Democratic Alliance and third was the Economic Freedom Fighters, the party of former ANC youth leader and policy radical Julius Malema.
The ANC’s victory was predictable. Even though a growing percentage of the electorate were born after 1994, the majority of the country’s 42 million black Africans continue to honor the ANC for its consistent role since its 1912 founding of opposing white minority, then apartheid rule. In 1994 the ANC inherited the difficult task of redistributing South Africa’s economic wealth, largely in the hands of the out-of-power whites, to improve the lives of the black majority without destroying the economy, as President Robert G. Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. The party has done a reasonable job of that.
Nevertheless, there are serious problems with the ANC. Its presidents have become less credible, proceeding from Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki and, now, to Mr. Zuma, who was booed during his speech at Mandela’s funeral. Other recent scandals included the killing by security forces of 34 striking miners last year at Marikana and Mr. Zuma’s spending of $23 million in government money on improvements to his personal residence.
It is not likely that South Africa’s people will support forever an increasingly corrupt and rudderless ANC. And, in some ways, as South Africa goes, so goes Africa.