Ruling party’s last-ditch maneuver to retain power in SA


President Cyril Ramaphosa on ANC whirlwind election campaigns

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – WHILE much of the preparations for the watershed elections has been dominated by legal tussles, swiftly, South Africans are enjoying uninterrupted power supplies.

Roads are pristine again. Garbage is collected on time.

Only days ago, these services were a luxury.

Suddenly, South Africa is functioning again.

It is a far cry from a country synonymous with hours of punitive power cuts, known as load shedding, pothole-laden roads and rubbish piling up uncollected in the streets.

This transformation is obviously because watershed elections are approaching.

Analysts believe the restoration of electricity, refurbishment of roads and timely collection of rubbish is a ploy by the governing African National Congress (ANC) to endear itself to the electorate and present itself as a party committed to service delivery.

Africa’s oldest liberation movement, at the helm since independence in 1994 but now a factionalised and corruption-plagued outfit, is facing the biggest threat to its throttlehold on power.

With the country in recent years nose-diving to scarcity of electricity detrimental to the economy, rising poverty and a collapsing infrastructure, the issue of service delivery is seen as determining how South Africans will cast their votes on May 29.

Hence the governing party is suddenly ensuring non-stop electricity supply and out of the blue prioritising service delivery.

Through Operation Vala Zonke (Mend All), the South African National Roads Agency is fixing potholes round the clock.

On Monday, the beleaguered power utility, Eskom, announced 25 consecutive days of uninterrupted electricity supplies.

The last time Eskom achieved such a feat was in June 2022, with 20 consecutive days without load shedding.

“While Eskom acknowledges this milestone, it remains committed to the continued implementation of its Generation Operational Recovery Plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate loadshedding,” it stated.

It attributed the suspension of load shedding “the sustained generation capacity and adequate emergency reserves.”

However, analyst, Sifiso Mkhize, sees this as an election gimmick by the governing party of President Cyril Ramaphosa (71).

“It’s too little too late,” Mkhize said.

“After years of load shedding and neglected roads in a state of disrepair they are trying to buy the public now,” he added.

“We know after elections they won’t bother, so it’s time to give a chance to a new party as the old opposition parties are no good either,” Mkhize said.

He is aligned to the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK), a breakaway party from the ruling ANC that is now led by former President Jacob Zuma, a man once the darling of the governing party but now its biggest adversary.

Zuma (82) and MK, since its launch last year, have been a thorn in the side of the ANC and has emerged one of the biggest threats to ANC’s grip on power.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) last week confirmed Zuma will be the face of the party for the poll.

On Monday, the ANC suffered another damaging legal loss when the Durban High Court, in Zuma’s and MK’s stronghold, ruled in favour of the MK to use its trademark name and logo for the watershed election.

The ANC claims rights to the name and logo, with the MK originally its liberation wing, before it was disbanded after the end of apartheid in 1994.

ANC has previously failed in its bid to have Zuma and MK disqualified. It has appealed the latest ruling.

Critics believe this is indirectly boosting the image of Zuma and his new political home.

Zuma, who remains suspended by the party he led from 2007 to 2017, has been addressing hordes of supporters that have been attending court sessions around the country.

A trademark giggle and a spirited dance reminiscent of his presidency always rouse supporters at his addresses.

The man supporters refer to as “ubaba”, meaning “father of the nation” is a wily politician.

An esrtwhile inmate at the Robben Island pre-independence, he is a freedom fighter who overcame a lack of formal education as well as rape and corruption allegations to become South African president from 2009 to and 2018, when a faction of Ramaphosa in the ANC pressured him to resign.

Zuma is of the Zulu ethnic group. His emergence as MK leader is a setback for ANC, considering the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, where he is from, is the biggest ANC branch.

Hailed as a man of the people, he derives his support from the grassroots, unlike Ramaphosa, a lawyer, ex-trade unionist and one of the richest individuals in South Africa.

Zuma’s arrest in 2021 over contempt of court allegations left over 350 people dead in riots.

Radicals allege a ploy within the ANC of an agenda to keep the Zulu out of power.

KZN is meanwhile the province most beset by political killings as the battle for power becomes a matter of life and death.

Last week, under-fire Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, disclosed that between 2018, the last election, and now 360 suspects had been arrested.

More than 100 political leaders have been killed in the province during the period, mostly of the ANC.

ANC has meanwhile desisted from addressing the new splinter party as MK. It now refers to it as “the Zuma party.”

“The ANC was and is to this day the heart and soul of uMkhonto weSizwe. We strongly believe an appeal is duly warranted,” ANC Secretary-General, Fikile Mbalula, said.

The ANC has lost its way amid infighting and corruption. Analysts forecast its majority to fall below 50 percent this year.

It has been soliciting votes at taxi ranks, churches and through door-to-door campaigns.

Ramaphosa came under criticism recently in the impoverished township of Orange Farm area of Gauteng when an unemployed graduate, Silindokuhle Khoza, approached Ramaphosa for help during a campaign.

Ramaphosa told the young woman to “keep searching” for a job, in a country where unemployment is high.

Khoza said she felt “crushed” by the president’s response.

Creation of employment, ending power cuts, tackling crime and addressing imbalances in a country maligned as having the most unequal society in the world feature prominently in most parties’ manifestos.

For this election, the issue of migration is a campaign tool for some political parties, especially the Patriotic Alliance (PA) led by ex-convict Gayton McKenzie (50).

He blames the crime in South Africa on undocumented immigrants and has threatened mass deportations if elected.

“We will arrest and deport immediately,” McKenzie warned.

“They couldn’t face the governments in their own country but want to come and make demands while illegally here. We are being taken for fools in South Africa.”

Irregular immigration is mainly an issue in the economic powerhouse of Gauteng, where no party is dominant and thus is anyone’s game. Law enforcement agencies have maintained a blitz against illegal immigrants in Johannesburg and adjacent townships in recent days.

McKenzie has said if elected into power, his government would introduce the death sentence to combat one of the world’s highest murder rates.

After some five parties suspended by the Electoral Court threw their weight behind the PA, the Western Cape province, dominated by the biggest opposition, Democratic Alliance (DA), will be another battlefield.

The DA leads a fragile Multi Party Charter, a coalition of opposition parties seeking to attain office but has controversially hinted at an alliance with ANC should the latter lose power.

The DA, accused by critics of prioritizing the interests of only the white minority, is projected to lose its rank as the official opposition to the vastly growing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which seem to be winning the souls and hearts of the youths, unemployed and general workers.

Led by the abrasive Julius Malema (43), also expelled by the ANC, it is touted as the next official opposition.

EFF’s manifesto advocates for expropriation of land without compensation as a strategy to address apartheid imbalances.

IEC has confirmed over 27,79 million voters are registered to vote.

This is the highest since the dawn of democracy.

– CAJ News

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