JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 6 – South Africa’s ruling ANC and its scandal-tainted leader Jacob Zuma are expected to secure a landslide victory when voters cast their ballots on Wednesday, but with the party’s trajectory in serious doubt.
Zuma, whose first five-year term in office has been plagued by corruption, mismanagement and often deadly social unrest, made a final nostalgia-tinged pitch to voters on Sunday, promising more economic power for non-whites.
The African National Congress has won every general election since the advent of democracy in 1994 by a landslide and is expected to win by a wide margin this time round too. And the party that controls the legislature picks the president.
According to a recent Ipsos poll the ANC is set to garner 63 percent of the vote, just three percentage points less than in 2009.
During the campaign the ANC has benefited from the outpouring of grief over the death of its former leader and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela as well as celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the first all-race elections.
But the ANC’s current leader has proved to be an Achille’s heel.
Opposition parties from both the right and left have pummelled Zuma over the $23 million of taxpayer funds used to “upgrade” his private home. READ: S.Africa’s ANC in damage control over Zuma home upgrades.
“The ANC has become arrogant because they believe that the voters will carry on voting for them, whatever they do,” said Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille at a rally on Saturday.
“Well, they are in for a big shock on Wednesday.”
The alliance is predicted to increase its share of the vote by nearly six percentage points to 22 percent and to do well in major urban centres.
But most voters appear ready to put the party they know before the president they mistrust.
On Sunday 90,000-plus jubilant and defiant ANC cadres packed a cavernous Soweto stadium in a pre-election show of force, during which Zuma at times appeared to be an afterthought.
There were no humiliating boos like Zuma suffered in the same stadium during Mandela’s memorial service in December, but the 72-year-old president’s lengthy speech got a lukewarm response, with tens of thousands filing out of the stadium as he spoke.