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South Africa Gears Up for Crucial General Election

On May 29, nearly 28 million South Africans will head to the polls for a highly anticipated general election. Voters will elect representatives to the national and provincial parliaments, a critical juncture for the nation’s political landscape. Here are the main contenders and their chances in this pivotal race:

Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC

The current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, leads the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Ramaphosa took office in 2018 following the ousting of Jacob Zuma, who left a legacy of corruption charges. At 71, Ramaphosa’s tenure has been marked by promises of reform and economic revitalization, but his critics argue he has not fulfilled these promises. Under his leadership, unemployment has soared, and the ANC faces the real possibility of losing its majority. Should this happen, the party might have to enter a coalition government for the first time since Nelson Mandela’s presidency three decades ago.

 

Julius Malema and the EFF

Julius Malema, the 43-year-old leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), founded the party in 2013 after being expelled from the ANC. Known for his radical stance, Malema advocates for extensive land redistribution and nationalization of key industries to address inequality. His fiery rhetoric and controversial persona have earned him both criticism and admiration, positioning him as a significant player in the upcoming election.

 

John Steenhuisen and the DA

John Steenhuisen, the 48-year-old leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), aims to unseat the ANC through a multi-party coalition. Although he has struggled to expand the DA’s appeal beyond its traditional white, middle-class base, Steenhuisen’s leadership is pivotal in the coalition’s efforts to challenge the ANC’s dominance.

 

Jacob Zuma and the uMkhonto we Sizwe

Former President Jacob Zuma, despite being barred from running due to his criminal convictions, remains a significant figure. Leading the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new opposition party, Zuma still enjoys considerable support, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. His influence persists, although his name will be removed from the parliamentary candidates list.

 

Other Notable Candidates

– **Mmusi Maimane**: The former DA leader now leads Build One South Africa, a new liberal party.

Herman Mashaba: Former Johannesburg Mayor and leader of ActionSA, known for his capitalist stance, has allied with the DA.

Velenkosini Hlabisa: Heads the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), part of the DA-led coalition.

Pieter Groenewald: Leads the Afrikaner Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), also in the coalition.

Songezo Zibi: An ex-journalist now leading the center-left Rise Mzansi.

Gayton Mckenzie: Former convict and leader of the right-wing Patriotic Alliance.

 

In total, 70 political parties and 11 independent candidates will contest the national and provincial elections, with 52 parties listed on the national ballot.

As the election approaches, South Africa stands at a critical crossroads. The outcome will not only determine the country’s immediate political direction but also its long-term path toward addressing economic challenges and social inequalities.

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