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South Africa's Election Showdown: Who Will Lead South Africa After the May 29 Election?

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Mbeki edmond

May 22, 2024

May 29 Vote Set to Challenge ANC's 30-Year Dominance Amid Tight Contest

Jacob Zuma, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, remains a significant figure in South African politics. Despite being jailed for 10 years by the apartheid regime and serving as South Africa's president from 2009 to 2018, his term was marred by corruption scandals, economic stagnation, and credit ratings downgrades. Forced to quit in 2018, a subsequent public inquiry concluded that government corruption was rampant during his presidency
An African National Congress (ANC) supporter waves a Palestian flag during the 112th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the party, at Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga province, South Africa

South Africa's May 29 election is set to be the most tightly contested since the end of apartheid. Opinion polls suggest the African National Congress (ANC) may lose its majority for the first time in 30 years. The ANC is expected to win the largest share of the vote, meaning President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to remain in office unless an internal challenge arises if the party performs poorly. If the ANC falls short of a majority, it will need to negotiate a coalition or other deals with other parties.


Key Figures in the Election:

Cyril Ramaphosa, African National Congress (ANC)

  • Age: 71

  • Background: Rose to prominence in the 1980s as a union leader; became ANC secretary-general in 1991.

  • Career: Left politics in 1996 for business, then returned to replace Jacob Zuma as ANC leader in 2017 and became president in 2018.

  • Controversies: Faced a scandal in 2022 over the theft of cash from his farm, but denies wrongdoing.

  • Support and Criticism: Known for preserving consensus; criticized for being less effective in implementing reforms.



John Steenhuisen, Democratic Alliance (DA)

  • Age: 48

  • Background: Active in politics from a young age; became DA leader in 2019.

  • Policies: Advocates for economically liberal positions, including breaking up Eskom and loosening labor laws.

  • Public Perception: Faces skepticism about the DA's representation, which he denies, promoting the party's commitment to good governance.


Julius Malema, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

  • Age: 43

  • Background: Former ANC youth leader; founded the EFF after being suspended from the ANC.

  • Policies: Advocates for land redistribution and nationalizing mines.

  • Controversies: Known for his flashy lifestyle; has a distinctive stance on immigration, opposing tighter controls.


Jacob Zuma, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK)

  • Age: 82

  • Background: Anti-apartheid veteran; served as South Africa's president from 2009 to 2018.

  • Controversies: His presidency was marked by corruption scandals; sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2021 for defying a court order.

  • Current Role: Supports the newly formed MK party; despite being barred from running for parliament, his name will appear on the ballot.


Election Dynamics

The ANC's potential loss of majority raises questions about the formation of coalitions. Ramaphosa's leadership, Steenhuisen's liberal economic policies, Malema's radical reforms, and Zuma's enduring influence add layers of complexity to the electoral landscape.


As South Africa heads to the polls, the outcome remains uncertain with the possibility of the ANC losing its long-held dominance. The election will determine if Ramaphosa continues as president or if new alliances and leadership emerge.

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