South Africa: Local Govt Poll in August Will Test President Zuma

After surviving his impeachment on Tuesday, local body elections in August will be the next big test for Zuma.

3 min read
South African president Jacob Zuma, in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: AP)

South Africa will hold local government elections on 3 August, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday. The move looks likely to become a referendum on his leadership after an attempt to impeach him, and mounting concern about weak economic growth.

This year’s local elections pose a major risk for Zuma’s dominant ruling African National Congress (ANC). Any defeats in the big population centres for the ANC, which counts on rural areas for the bulk of its support, could damage the party that has been in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, as it gears up for a presidential election in 2019.

Zuma is unable to stand in that vote after completing two terms, but is likely to be influential behind the scenes in picking a new ANC leader at a conference in 2017, even though calls are already growing for him to step down.

Meanwhile, the opposition aims to wrestle control of the commercial hub Johannesburg and capital Pretoria from the ANC, as well as urban centres where anger has risen against the ruling party.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Official opposition Democratic Alliance party, addresses journalists outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. (Photo: AP)
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Official opposition Democratic Alliance party, addresses journalists outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. (Photo: AP)

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance – the biggest opposition party – said on Twitter:

So yes, it’s on 3 August that we deal decisively with ZANC (Zuma’s ANC).

Zuma Survives Impeachment Vote on Tuesday

President Zuma survived impeachment on Tuesday thanks to the ANC’s big majority in the 400-seat assembly. Zuma had faced censure after the constitutional court ruled that he breached the constitution by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent renovating his home.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AP)
South Africa President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: AP)

He alarmed investors and caused the rand to tumble in December when he replaced former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene with David van Rooyen, a little-known politician. Under a barrage of criticism, he replaced van Rooyen just days later with Pravin Gordhan, who had held the job from 2009 to 2014.

The announcement of the date for the elections also comes at a time when Africa’s most industrialised economy is struggling. Its currency has lost 4 percent to the dollar so far this year, the central bank has forecast growth of 0.8 percent, and unemployment is at 25 percent.

South Africans Try to See the Funny Side of the Crisis

With their economy flat-lining, currency on the ropes and politics in turmoil, many South Africans are turning to humour for relief.

Comedian Lazola Gola took a dig at President Zuma on his twitter handle.

For comedians, Zuma is the gift that keeps on giving; a politician whose career has run the full gamut of scandal, from a love-child and corruption charges to foot-in-mouth insults of African countries and his belief, expressed during a 2006 rape trial, that having a shower can prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS.

However, no episode has surpassed the six-year imbroglio over the “security upgrades” to his sprawling Nkandla private residence that included an amphitheatre, swimming pool, cattle enclosure and chicken run.

Demonstrating political analysis as sharp as his wit, comedian Mojak Lehoko said Zuma’s ability to ride out the constitutional court smack-down was no surprise.

This is a man who has survived more than 700 corruption charges and a rape case. There’s no way he’s going to jail over some home improvements and a swimming pool.
Mojak Lehoko, political comedian

South African host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, explained to US audiences this week how Zuma was elected in 2009 without ever being formally cleared by a court of hundreds of corruption charges.

South African comedian Trevor Noah. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="">@TrevorNoah</a>)
South African comedian Trevor Noah. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@TrevorNoah)
I know, I know, that should have been a red flag to South Africans but ever since apartheid we’ve strived to be colour blind, so all we saw was a flag.
Trevor Noah, Comedian

Others have taken the view that the politics of the self-styled ‘Rainbow Nation’ have become so bizarre that satire is unable to compete with the real thing.

April Fools’ Day 2016 cancelled till further notice. We couldn’t come up with anything half as mad as SA reality today. Sorry.
Daily Maverick, online political magazine

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!