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South Africa to hold general election on May 29

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Al Jazeera


South Africa will hold national and provincial elections on May 29, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office has said.

Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is expected to face a tough challenge to retain its parliamentary majority in the country’s seventh democratic election since the end of the apartheid system in 1994.

“The 2024 elections coincide with South Africa’s celebration of 30 years of freedom and democracy,” the presidency said in a statement posted on X on Tuesday.

In 1994, the country held its first democratic elections after the fall of the racially segregationist system of apartheid that had brutally oppressed Black and other non-white South Africans since 1948.

“Beyond the fulfilment of our constitutional obligation, these upcoming elections are also a celebration of our democratic journey and a determination of the future that we all desire,” Ramaphosa said.

 

The statement echoed sentiments he shared in his State of the Nation Address earlier this month, where he used much of his speech to highlight how far the country has come in three decades and what role his governing party has played.

Ramaphosa, 71, is seeking a second term as president in a vote that may prove historic, with opinion polls showing opposition parties gaining ground over his African National Congress (ANC) in some areas.

The ANC has led the country since 1994. But the party is now struggling in the polls, and many analysts say this year it will for the first time get less than the 50 percent parliamentary majority it has won in past elections.

Power cuts and employment crisis

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are the main opposition parties.

Former President Jacob Zuma has backed the newly formed uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) or Spear of the Nation party, in a move that could potentially attract some traditional ANC voters.

Zuma – who still enjoys huge popularity despite ongoing court cases and allegations of corruption against him – was part of the ANC until he was suspended in January.

Political analysts also say record power cuts, poor service delivery and high levels of unemployment are likely to hurt the ANC at the polls in May.

Daily blackouts, known locally as “load shedding”, have plagued the country for years, showing no sign of ending despite the president’s recent remarks that “the worst is behind us”. The power crisis has affected local businesses and the economy.

The country’s unemployment rate reached 32.1 percent in December, the national statistics agency StatsSA said on Tuesday.

On the foreign policy front, South Africa has put its weight behind securing an end to Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine more broadly.

It has filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Israel of genocide, and also contributed to another case on the legality of the Israeli occupation.

Even though there is overwhelming support for South Africa’s actions on the domestic front – as South Africa and Palestine have long enjoyed close ties – Ramaphosa’s intentions are also being scrutinised, with some accusing the president of being “opportunistic” in a key election year.

On May 29, South Africans will elect a new National Assembly as well as the provincial legislature in each of the country’s nine provinces before the National Assembly elects the president.