In the wake of South Africa’s municipality elections over the weekend, the future of the African National Congress appears uncertain as it suffered its worst election setback since taking over power at the end of apartheid in 1994.
For the first time in its history, ANC’s support in major cities like Pretoria, Cape Town, and Johannesburg dropped to 55 percent, which is even worse than its main critics had predicted, according to the Financial Times.
The outcome has left many questioning the survival of the decades-old party and its current embattled leader President Jacob Zuma, who has been implicated a string of scandals that include rape, corruption, and racketeering.
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In the just-concluded municipality elections, Zuma’s party lost its majority support in Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay), Johannesburg, and Pretoria, which were previously deemed its main strongholds.
South Africa’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), showed impressive gains as it moved out of its key territory, Cape Town, to garner support in ANC grounds, possibly foreshadowing a possible power-sharing arrangement.
Ghosts of the Past
Past scandals around South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma came back to haunt him on Friday during his televised public address, during which time he praised South Africans for remaining peaceful throughout the election.
Four women stood in front of the president’s podium, lifting placards that appeared to mock his acquittal for rape in 2006. The women were later thrown out of the press room by Zuma’s security agents, but the president did not comment on their actions.
In December 2005, President Zuma was taken to the country’s High Court and charged with raping a 31-year-old woman – Zuma’s deceased friend’s daughter, who works as an AIDS activist.
However, the president denied the charges and said the act in question was consensual. Asked why he showered immediately after the alleged rape, Zuma said he took a bath to cut the risk of contracting HIV.
His statement was widely criticized by AIDS educators who emphasized that taking shower after having sex with a HIV-positive person doesn’t prevent transmission of the virus.
In May 2006, the court acquitted Mr. Zuma due to lack of evidence.