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Monday June 24, 2024

South African opposition targets ANC majority as vote looms

Zuma cannot stand for election but may still take votes from his former party

By AFP
May 27, 2024
An African National Congress (ANC) supporter waves a flag during the 112th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the party, at Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga province, South Africa, January 13, 2024. — Reuters
An African National Congress (ANC) supporter waves a flag during the 112th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the party, at Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga province, South Africa, January 13, 2024. — Reuters

BENONI, South Africa: South Africa´s opposition parties mounted an 11th-hour assault on Sunday on the ruling ANC´s 30-year-old grip on power, staging large-scale rallies three days before what promises to be a historic general election.

From the right, the Democratic Alliance (DA) gathered in the town of Benoni outside Johannesburg to cheer on leader John Steenhuisen under a pair of national flags ahead of Wednesday´s vote.

The party picked a smaller 20,000-seat stadium than the African National Congress had chosen for its huge Johannesburg rally the day before, but blue-clad supporters amply filled it, kept on their feet by DJs and bands playing amapiano and country songs.

“We don´t offer empty promises, we show concrete facts and the facts are undeniable,” Steenhuisen told the crowd, shielded from the winter sun by blue umbrellas.

“Today our people are suffering under the unbearable burden of poverty, unemployment, crime. These disasters are not inevitable but were created by the ANC,” he said.

“On Wednesday, the ANC will lose the outright majority it has abused for decades... On Wednesday, we close the ANC chapter of our history.”

Opinion polls suggest the white-led DA will not overtake the ANC to become South Africa´s biggest single party, but it hopes to unite with a coalition of smaller outfits to take power.

“I want change. It´s too bad right now: no jobs, no nothing,” said 66-year-old job-seeker Isaac Tembo, who has voted for the ANC every five years since the advent of democracy in 1994.

From the left, former president Jacob Zuma, not legally a candidate because of a conviction for contempt of court, is marshalling his uMkonto weSizwe (MK) party for a final push.

Zuma, who served as the ANC´s fourth president between 2009 and 2018 but left office dogged by graft allegations, cannot stand for election but may still take votes from his former party.