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Closing the racial wealth gap or maintaining the old order, South Africans decide

May 09, 2019 at 08:50 am | Opinions & Features

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

May 09, 2019 at 08:50 am | Opinions & Features

The 3 major contenders in South Africa's election - Julius Malema, EFF (L), Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC (M), Mmusi Maimane, DA (R).

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This proverb would only make sense if the populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party led by firebrand Julius Malema wins the May 8 presidential and provincial election in South Africa to test their rant of being nothing like the governing African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC has won all the six democratic elections since 1994 but has lost its trust in the public eye following corruption scandals in the past decade that have ripped through its reputation as Nelson Mandela’s party that helped free black South Africans.

Julius Malema has been in politics all his life starting with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) since he was about 10 years old. He was expelled from the party for criticising former leader Jacob Zuma in 2012 when he was the ANC Youth League leader.

With support from some youth members, Malema formed the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in 2013 based on South African revolutionary socialist ideologies. From its formation year to date, the EFF has risen from being the underdogs to the big dogs in South African politics.

Julius Malema

With their signature red berets and shirts, the EFF is the third-largest party in both houses of the South African parliament following its surprise performance in the 2014 elections in which they won 6 percent of parliamentary seats.

Their mantra has not changed and many South Africans have raised their hopes of getting a bigger share of the country’s wealth in the possession of the white minority which is on the better side of the inequality gap.

“White people, all we want is to join you at the dinner table and eat with you. If you do not want us to sit with you at the table, then we have no choice but to destroy the table,” Malema told thousands of supporters in Soweto’s Orlando Stadium at his final rally on Sunday.

This unpopular sentiment was shared and implemented by Robert Mugabe who kicked out the white minority and redistributed their lands when he was president of Zimbabwe. It came back to haunt the country as many sought legal redress and Western countries placed economic sanctions of the southern African country.

The hope for a fair share of wealth and jobs is what pushed Malema out of the ANC which he accused of doing nothing to achieve the goal of taking back lands for the disadvantaged black population.

He also accused the ruling party of harbouring corrupt leaders who need to be ousted before the party could share the dream of Nelson Mandela. This accusation that got him into trouble with the party later became a common suspicion within the ANC resulting in subsequent investigation and resignation of former president Jacob Zuma in 2018 over corrupt deals.

The ANC’s current leader and president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, is contesting in the election for the first time after a year of promising to renew the image of the corruption-ridden party, to improve poor public services, create jobs and to ensure South Africa’s economic and social growth.

Cyril Ramaphosa

“We are going to fight against corruption despite stern opposition from those who benefited,” the president said on the last day of the campaign as divisions in the party are affecting his leadership. Some members are still aligned to his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

After the ANC, the second political force in the country is the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party which is led by 38-year-old Mmusi Maimane. The DA has always been the second power in the political realm after ANC and for the past decade has secured the Western Cape in the elections.

Mmusi Maimane

The party has campaigned for reforms and unity with the white minority, a goal the EFF has described as machination by a white power behind the party.

Analysts believe the ANC is likely to win the polls but would lose numbers to the EFF which would perform better than its previous records. The DA will remain as the second force in the election and might also secure more votes in some provinces than they ever did.

As of 0900 GMT Thursday, more than 4 million votes had been counted out of about 26.8 million registered voters. In the parliamentary vote, the ANC was on 55 percent, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on nearly 26 percent and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on nearly 9 percent, reports Reuters. The 2014 election saw the ANC win 62 percent, the DA 22 percent and the EFF 6 percent.

There was a low voter turnout as against previous elections and many young South Africans had expressed disinterest in the process. According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, turnout stood at just over 65 percent on Thursday morning.

The final results are expected to be announced on Saturday.

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