ANC seeks re-election in South Africa

South African President Ramaphosa campaigns for re-election against the backdrop of Jacob Zuma’s corruption scandal. What are the main issues plaguing South Africans, and who is the ANC’s largest electoral threat?


The African National Congress (ANC) has ruled South Africa since the fall of apartheid in 1994. However, in recent years its support has eroded as vast inequalities remain. For example, despite over 20 years of ANC rule, South Africa’s Caucasians still own most of South Africa’s land. The ANC has also been a part of several corruption scandals. 

In December 2017, President Zuma was voted out of the ANC due to multiple corruption scandals. Cyril Ramaphosa had served as the country’s deputy president to Jacob Zuma since 2014 and second-in-command at the ANC. Following the Zuma scandal, Mr Ramaphosa was elected the President of both the ANC and South Africa. He has presented himself as a reformer and anti-corruption fighter. 

Cyril Ramaphosa's political career was initially sparked by activism. In 1991, he became the head of the negotiation team of the ANC, discussing terms that ended the apartheid. Following the first fully democratic elections in 1994, Mr Ramaphosa became a Member of Parliament.  He also built up the biggest and most influential trade union in South Africa—the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). 


In May 2019, South Africa will vote in general elections. The ballot is seen as a referendum on the ANC, and President Ramaphosa’s performance. 

The ANC’s image as the party that brought an end to apartheid has been hit by Jacob Zuma’s corruption scandal. Many of Mr Zuma’s associates and partners continue to hold office within the ANC and the incumbent government. Many voters have grown disillusioned with the ANC, believing that removing the party from office is necessary to bring about change. Mr Ramaphosa willingness to allow Mr Zuma’s associates continued access to the government strengthens this belief. 

Mr Ramaphosa’s performance at the helm of the government is being questioned. South Africa’s image as a country rife with corruption has led investment to move out of the country. This has caused unemployment rate to climb to about 27%, with youth unemployment nearly double that. Mr Ramaphosa has promised to improve the nation’s image, which he believes will attract investment back into South Africa. Foreign  Investments should help the cause of employment in South Africans, making job creation the core of ANC’s campaign pitch.

Before the start of the campaign season, the ANC amended South Africa’s constitution, introducing land reform. The reform allows the government to seize farmlands, which are majority owned by the country’s whites, without compensation. The changes were pushed by the ANC’s former youth-wing, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a left-wing organisation. 

The ability of the EFF to demand and secure land reforms from the ANC, despite having only 6% of the vote in 2014’s elections, shows their growing power. The EFF now poses the most significant threat to the ANC’s electoral mandate. Appealing to many of the country’s youth and those disillusioned by the ruling party’s failure to provide essential services, the EFF is expected to make considerable gains in the elections.

Another area of concern of South African voters is the perception that immigrants are taking jobs. Migrants own and operate many of the country’s wholesalers and retailers. Although they only account for 3% of the country’s population, many unemployed South African’s believe that migrants have displaced them. This has led to bouts of xenophobic violence. Officials have failed to take adequate action, often strengthening this belief by making statements about undocumented migrants.


Besides tackling corruption, central to the ANC’s electoral pitch is job creation. According to the Institute of Race Relations, a think-tank in Johannesburg, Mr Ramaphosa is unlikely to be able to create enough jobs to reduce unemployment. The country’s economy would need to grow at 5-6% annually for 20 years to reduce unemployment to 10%. The country’s current growth rate is 1.3%.


Our assessment is that South Africans seek answers to sustained inequality, unemployment, corruption, crime, immigration and economic performance. The EFF is the ANC’s most formidable challenger; we believe that the EFF’s history as the ANC’s youth-wing and its ability to push forward populist land reform measures will result in electoral gains. We estimate that the ANC’s track-record and promises of job creation are unsustainable. We feel that recently adopted reforms that permit the seizure of land without compensation does little to instil investor trust in South Africa’s economy and may further inhibit the country’s growth rate. 

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