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Show of Power and Democracy As S.A Head To Polls, On May 29

By Shingirai Vambe

MKs Zuma, hot contender in SA 2024 Watershed elections

A matrix unfolds in a show of power and democracy as South Africans head to the polls at the end of this month with nations commemorating International Press Freedom Day. South Africa stands at 2nd position in Africa, in the region, and 4th in the world, respecting the rights of the media and journalists.

More than a million South Africans have registered to vote and former president Jacob Zuma’s party uMkonto weSizwe (MK) has stood and defied the judiciary odds, the courts presented their independence and Zuma’s name and face now on the ballot paper, comparing with the same or less similar case of the neighbouring country, Zimbabwe, South Africa democratic space is wide open and in fair support of the citizens, guided by the tenets of the South African Constitution.

The nation finds itself at a crossroads. With voter discontent on the rise, shifting political alliances, and the historic inclusion of independent candidates, the uncertainty and desire for change that define the current landscape harken back to the pivotal 1994 elections, making this a crucial moment for South Africans to shape their country’s future yet again.

Now, three decades after the historic 1994 elections, South Africans are once again facing a pivotal moment. The uncertainty and apprehension surrounding the potential outcome and consequences of the 2024 elections echo the feelings experienced by the nation on 27 April 1994. Notably, more than a third (35%) of registered voters express that there is “no political party that truly represents their views,” underscoring the complex political landscape and the desire for change.

The discontent among South African voters is further evidenced with a mere 23% of registered voters believing that the country is moving in the right direction, while two-thirds (66%) think that the country’s current “direction of travel” is wrong. This underscores the need for political parties and candidates to address the concerns of the electorate.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa, the country’s electoral body, said a total of 115 parties have submitted applications to contest seats in the National Assembly. All the 14 parties currently represented in the National Assembly have submitted applications to contest seats in the National Assembly and at least one region, all the 11 independent candidates have so far got the opportunity to air their promises to the nation among them only one is a female candidate, Anele Mda.

Zuma is hoping to run for president on behalf of the MK, which he joined last year after denouncing the governing African National Congress (ANC) party that he once led. On May 29, South Africans will head to the polls to elect 400 members of the General Assembly. A month later, lawmakers in the new parliament will choose the next president.

Banking on the popularity of Zuma, MK hopes to win enough votes that would ensure them parliament seats while also cutting into the vote share of the ANC. The ANC could see its vote share drop below 50 percent for the first time since 1994. Short of a parliamentary majority, it would be forced to seek coalition partners to remain in power, turning Zuma into a possible kingmaker, analysts say.

There is a school of thought that Zuma’s move will change the majority vote that ANC used to have while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members are expecting and huge voter turnout and vote from the youths in their favour.

A woman walks past election posters in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 19, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo – RC191C773A60

South Africa’s citizen-led initiatives aimed at budget monitoring, transparency, social justice, corruption, and equality are some of the most robust in the world. Indeed, their oversight mechanisms include litigation, civil society demands for transparency, investigative journalism, and public demonstrations. All these seem not to exist in Zimbabwe, with the latest adverse report by the observers of the Aug 23-24 2023 General Elections.

Cases, more than 30 and some still before the Courts, and electoral violations were handled in a manner that majority of citizens were left without choice and sceptical of the democratic space and capture of the judiciary, with the arrest of legislators and striking off the role cases relating to opposition political parities and impartial coverage of candidates by the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC).

Just like Zuma, former legislator and minister in the previous Zimbabwe Government, Saviour Kasukuwere could not contest the 2023 general elections.

Lessons to learn: When South Africa visits Zimbabwe to observe and deal with electoral disputes, IEC is an independent institution, just like the judiciary and the media.

In 2000, Morgan Tsvangirai, took the late Zimbabwean leader to court contesting the presidential election results. The case was heard in the Zimbabwean High Court, and the judgment was delivered by Justice Anthony Gubbay.

In a landmark ruling, Justice Gubbay declared that the election results were indeed flawed and that Robert Mugabe’s victory was unconstitutional. However, the ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court, which was packed with Mugabe loyalists.

Despite the outcome, the case was seen as a significant moment in Zimbabwe’s political history, as it highlighted the courage and determination of Tsvangirai and the opposition movement in challenging the authoritarian rule of Mugabe’s regime.