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South Africa after the election

By Bruce Haigh - posted Friday, 13 June 2014


The result of the recent South African election was not unexpected, but it was nonetheless disappointing.

This was the election when the first of the 'born free' generation voted, that is voters born after the ending of Apartheid in 1994.

They seem not to have voted for the ANC which at its fifth electoral victory secured 62.5% of the votes compared to 65.90% in 2009 and 69.69% in 2004. Its main rival the Democratic Alliance was up at 22.23% of the vote from 16.66% in 2009. The most rapidly growing political organisation, the Economic Freedom Party recorded a creditable 6.35% at its first contested election.

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There were 25 million people eligible to vote and 18 million or 73.4% did so, down on the previous election of 77.3%, reflecting disenchantment with a political process dominated by the ANC and Zuma; a buffoon and the butt of many justified jokes.

The ANC have a hold over South African politics which will be hard to break because of widespread corruption by members of the party and public officials who owe their preferment to members of the ruling party.

South Africa has not moved far from the crossroad it stood at after the first free and multicultural election in 1994. The prospect for failure and decline is as strong as that for creative growth.

The South African population is 53 million. The birth rate is 19 per thousand or around one million per annum, with 30% of the population 15 years or younger. The population increase in 2013 was around 500,000. There are 5.26 million people with HIV, or approximately 10% of the population, up from 8.9% in 2004. Of those aged between 15 and 49, 16% have HIV, up from 15% in 2004.

Unemployment is running at 25%, but black youth unemployment is 50%, feeding armed robbery, home invasion, carjacking and other violent crime, including sexual assault and rape. There were 65,000 cases of reported rape in 2012. Internationally South Africa has one of the highest incidents of murder, around 50 per day or 18,000 a year, although the rate is said to be falling.

White farmers have been particularly singled out for attack and murder, indicating not only very high levels of rural black poverty but also resentment at white ownership of land. Most people I know in South Africa, both black and white, have directly, over the past ten years, experienced some form of crime.

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The ANC came to power on the back of Mandela, financial sanctions and internal protest by black youngsters who were not members of the ANC. It has an unhealthy sense of entitlement, expressed in the growing corruption of Ministers and officials. The ANC acts as though it were an instrument and element of the state. This is a dangerous mindset for the future of democracy.

The South African economy is struggling to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population, although the 'black' economy is substantial and sustained by refugees from central Africa and economic opportunists from West Africa, particularly Nigeria. Estimates put their numbers at above two million, but the figure is just a guess. The government says that there are around 700,000 genuine asylum seekers from other parts of Africa.

Many local black South Africans resent their presence and see them as competitors for scarce jobs. There have been some nasty xenophobic attacks usually on the most vulnerable.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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