South Africa’s ruling African National Congress successfully cruised to another national electoral victory in early May, confirming Cyril Ramaphosa as the country’s president. Ramaphosa had come to power after corruption scandals had triggered an intra-party revolt against his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa faced dissent from Zuma’s supporters within his party, and electoral opposition from the white-dominated Democratic Alliance and a radical leftwing party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. In the end, the ANC secured 58 per cent of the vote, five percentage points less than it had last time.
The new South African president faces a number of challenges, most notably a stagnant economy and 40 percent unemployment among South African blacks. The EFF, campaigning on a platform of land seizure and redistribution, doubled its vote percentage to 10 largely at the expense of the ANC. While hardly representing a threat to the ANC’s political hegemony, the EFF’s presence is a reminder of the economic disenchantment of many of the majority black population.
Ramaphosa is expected to begin to carry out major, and painful, reforms to the South African economy, especially in terms of making Africa’s most advanced country more hospitable to business. He will face an additional problem: Zuma supporters dominate the bureaucracy and party leadership and have already shown a willingness to undermine the new president’s authority.
The corruption trial of Zuma, meanwhile, entered a critical week with the ex-South African leader waiting for the court to decide on his plea that all the charges against him be dismissed.
In another political development in Africa, the results of Malawi’s tightly contested presidential elections were delayed through a court ruling after the opposition alleged voter irregularities. The incumbent President Peter Mutharika was expected to be reelected if only because two other candidates, and a host of smaller ones, were expected to split the opposition vote between them.
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May 30, 2019