Is 2019’s election the most important since the advent of democracy in 1994?
The sixth general election since the arrival of democracy occurs at a critical moment in South Africa’s history. Since claiming a fifth electoral victory under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma in 214, the ANC has become embroiled in one scandal and failure of governance after another. It has allowed the state to be ‘captured’ by outside interests, corruption has flourished, the economy has plunged and the ruling party itself has become deeply divided between competing factions. When Cyril Ramaphosa won the race to become party leader at the ANC’s national conference in December 218, the stage was set for him to revive the economy and cleanse the state of corruption. Yet his narrow victory meant his internal party opponents remained strong, and the ANC remained sharply divided between pro- and anti-Zuma factions. Ramaphosa’s road to reform was strewn with numerous obstacles.
The immediate question this book poses is will the ANC manage to manufacture a sixth electoral victory despite its disastrous record in government since 214? It finds the answer in the personal popularity of Ramaphosa, the ANC’s capacity to forge political unitywhen confronted by the risk of losing power, established voting trends amongst older voters, a sharp decline in participation among the youth which might otherwise have produced electoral shifts and the failure of opposition parties to present themselves as viable alternatives.
The subsequent question is what the consequences of a sixth successive election victory for the ANC will be for South African democracy. Will the ANC’s triumph provide a sufficiently strong mandate for Ramaphosa to turn South Africa around, or will he fail to overcome Zuma’s allies within the party? Whether he succeeds or fails, will the ANC manage to hold itself together? Is the future and quality of South African democracy dictated by whether the ANC stays together or splits into rival parts?
Election 219 covers the context of the election, analyses changing voter participation and attitudes, outlines party campaigns and explores the role of gender and the media before evaluating the result. At its heart is the issue of whether South African democracy will survive.