Punishing the Party of Mandela? Expert Views on South Africa’s Election

Punishing the Party of Mandela? Expert Views on South Africa’s Election

The African National Congress, the party of the great liberator Nelson Mandela, has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. But over the past decade, the party's corruption and incompetence have sabotaged growth and opportunity, particularly for South Africa's huge youth population. The party's current leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has pledged to clean it up and today, voters in South Africa's national elections will show whether they believe him.

We sat down with South African analysts Pietr Du Toit and Mpumi Mkhabela, separately, to discuss a pivotal moment in the country's politics.


1. What are you watching for in this year's election?

PDT: The most important thing to look for is whether or not the African National Congress, our governing party, is punished for the last nine years of corruption – "state capture" as we call it – that's occurred under their watch.

The ANC has been on a downward trajectory since the 2004 election. So today we expect them to win, but with a continued decline in in their support. I will be looking for the premium that the electorate has put on corruption. How much did it cost them?

2. How does Mandela's legacy hang over this year's election?

MM: The majority of South Africans still recognize him as an eminent leader, as a father figure, a moral icon. However, younger people don't have the same sentimental attachment to the liberation struggle as their parent.

In addition, opposition leaders try to neutralize the advantage the ANC receives through its association with Mandela by claiming him for themselves. So the ANC doesn't enjoy an exclusive advantage by appropriating his legacy.

3. Which voters do you expect to abandon the ruling ANC?

MM: I think the middle class will be prepared to give Ramaphosa a chance. But among the extreme poor there are two groups. There's a group that may be willing to shift votes to the far-left opposition Economic Freedom Fighters. This a group in which many were born after 1994 and has little appreciation for the ANC's role in bringing an end to apartheid. They have typically graduated from university but are struggling to find jobs.

The second group isn't prepared to embrace an alternative to the ANC, because it's the only party they've ever known.

4. What's the biggest challenge for (ANC leader) Cyril Ramaphosa if he wins?

PDT: Ramaphosa in my mind has two choices—either save the state by cleaning up government, or save the ANC. The two are mutually exclusive.

If he decides to rid the state of graft, it means he's going to have to cut off patronage networks within his party, which will put him under enormous internal pressure.

If however he opts for unity of the party as the overriding ambition and focus, he's going to have to keep the patronage networks intact, which means that grand corruption as we've seen over the last nine years will continue.

* The exchange has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity

Visit Microsoft on The Issues for a front-row seat to see how Microsoft is thinking about the future of sustainability, accessibility, cybersecurity and more. Check back regularly to watch videos, and read blogs and feature stories to see how Microsoft is approaching the issues that matter most. For the latest, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

More Show less

It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

More Show less

The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

More Show less

Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

More Show less

158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal