Nelson Mandela will take more than just an incredible legacy of fighting for justice
with him to the grave,he will take with him a country’s moral center and a major source of legitimacy for the party he lead, the African National Congress (ANC).
It’s a tenuous situation.
The ANC was the political force that brought South Africa out of apartheid, and Mandela’s involvement started in 1944, when he was in his mid-20s. He helped found the ANC Youth League, which was officially adopted by the ANC in 1949.
In 1952 he was elected volunteer-in-chief of the 1952 Defiance Campaign, which had him travelling around the country organising resistance to apartheid rule until the party was forced to go underground.
It was decades before Mandela was elected to the South African presidency in 1994. In that time, he had a long, violent journey with the ANC behind him. The party, in turn, even after Mandela left office, enjoyed the dominance that came from his abiding legacy and the ability to claim him as one of its own.
But there have been many indications that the ANC has abused that political dominance and that the people of South Africa need little excuse to turn their backs on Mandela’s party.
According to the country’s national statistic service, South Africa’s unemployment rate is at 25.6%. It’s a violent country, and on top of all of that, the ANC’s leadership has shown signs of deep corruption.
South African President Jacob Zuma, an ANC leader, is currently involved in what The Guardian called “one of the biggest corruption scandals in democratic South Africa.” Reports indicated that Zuma had spent millions in taxpayer money on his lavish estate (with swimming pool) Nkandla.
Last month a leading South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, published a cartoon depicting South Zuma floating on a pile of cash. Another Mail & Guardian cartoon shows Zuma milking a cow into a bucket labelled Nkandla.
It’s just one prime example of why South Africans are sick of the party, and why the ANC’s rule now faces credible threats in South Africa’s upcoming 2014 elections. Japanese bank Nomura believes the party’s share of the vote could fall below 60% for the first time in its history, down to the mid 50s.
One threat the ANC came from within. Julius Malema, the populist-sounding leader of the new Economic Freedom Fighters party, was a former ANC youth leader. And he has a shot, according to some analysts.
Another opposition party with a rich anti-apartheid legacy, Angang, has also formed in time for the elections. It is lead by a former colleague and friend of slain freedom fighter Steven Biko, Mamphela Ramphele.
Then there’s the ANC’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance.
All of these parties are gaining steam. And without the force of Mandela’s continued support pushing the ANC ahead, in time, they will catch up to the ANC — the party Mandela helped to lead to victory.
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