Zuma to Be Tested in South African Elections

Zuma2, cc Linh Do, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


South Africans are headed to the polls today to vote in local elections, as the control of over 280 municipalities throughout the country is now up for grabs.

The election is being viewed as a crucial test for Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) party, which is reeling from a string of scandals and years of poor economic performance. The ANC was the vehicle that helped Nelson Mandela end apartheid in South Africa. It has dominated the political landscape in the democratic era, and much like other post-colonial dominant party systems around the world, there is not much in the way of an organized opposition to challenge the ANC’s hold on power.

This could be changing, however. Opinion polls now put the opposition Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) ahead of the ANC in major cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth.

Should the ANC lose big on Wednesday, we could be witnessing the start of a trend that will reverberate all the way to general elections in 2019.



In the grand scheme of things, these elections are symbolic, a chance for South Africans to register a protest vote against the ANC’s poor management of the national economy. An ANC loss on Wednesday would not dislodge the party from the apex of political power, but it would send a powerful message not to take its dominance for granted moving forward.

For President Zuma on the other hand, the repercussions could be far more concrete. An ANC loss would be a personal blow to him, and it would increase pressure to step down and pave the way for another leader to take over the reins ahead of the real prize in 2019. Zuma has been plagued by scandal of late after being ordered by a court to pay back public funds used to build a lavish personal estate. A loss in these local elections could prompt allies to withdraw their backing and seek out a candidate who’s a better bet for leading the ANC to victory in 2019.

This dynamic is further reinforced by the fact that Zuma cannot stand in 2019 since he has already served two terms.

Back to Top


Lost your password?