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Why Voters Are Falling Out of Love with the ANC and Africa’s Liberation Movements

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Ayize claire

Jun 11, 2024

The Decline of Liberation Movements in Africa: Understanding the Shift in Voter Sentiment

Africa's oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, is facing significant challenges, reflecting a broader trend across the continent. Despite being South Africa's most popular party, the ANC has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years. This decline in support marks a departure from the days when voters reflexively supported the party for its role in ending apartheid.


This phenomenon is not unique to South Africa. Other liberation movements that led struggles against colonial rule have also experienced similar declines due to corruption, cronyism, and a population eager for change. Some parties still in power, like those in southern Africa, are accused of maintaining their hold through electoral manipulation.


Researcher David Soler Crespo notes the inevitability of people seeking change, emphasizing that no party can democratically remain in power indefinitely. These movements have deeply ingrained themselves into national identities, making it difficult for citizens to separate the party from the state. For instance, Namibia's Swapo, which has been in power since 1990, lost its two-thirds majority in 2019, reflecting the population's growing discontent.


Social scientists like Ndumba Kamwanyah argue that voters today are less influenced by historical achievements and more by current realities. The socialist ideologies once championed by these movements have often faded, leading to questions about equitable benefits for citizens. Zambia's United National Independence Party (Unip) was one of the first to experience this shift, losing power in the early 1990s after decades of sole governance.


In countries like Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Mozambique, liberation movements have seen a decline in support. Accusations of electoral fraud and voter intimidation are common, with activists and observers like Adriano Nuvunga highlighting persistent issues in the electoral process.


The enduring challenge for these parties is adapting to governance after liberation. Chris Hani, a South African anti-apartheid hero, foresaw the potential for liberators to become elites, disconnected from the people's needs. A former Zimbabwean liberation fighter suggests that these movements are still catching up in a world not designed for them, emphasizing the difficulty of transitioning from revolutionary leadership to effective governance.


While the legacy of liberation is deeply embedded in the culture and psyche of these nations, the demand for change is growing. To remain relevant, these parties must reconnect with their foundational ideals and address the needs of a younger, more progressive electorate.

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