As South Africa election nears, one candidate ditches political parties to go it alone

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An outspoken former activist and member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will be among at least 10 independent candidates seeking to become lawmakers for the first time in the country’s history.

South Africa is allowing independent candidates to take part for the first time in the country’s national elections next week, following a landmark ruling delivered by the highest court last year.

Anele Mda was among members of the ANC who broke away from the party in 2008 to form the Congress of the People which contested elections the following year. They secured over 7% of the national vote, becoming the second biggest opposition party in Parliament.

However, political infighting within the party saw it gradually lose support and parliamentary seats from 30 in 2009 to only two in the elections in 2019.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of what’s expected to be a highly contested election on May 29, Mda said she had given up on political parties to deliver any meaningful change in the country.

“They are not about serving the interest of the people,” she said. “They are about serving the party, its members and its interests, but at the expense of using the resources that are provided for by the power that comes with the vote.”

As she criss-crosses the country to convince as many South Africans as possible to vote for her, Mda highlighted corruption in government and state-owned companies as priorities lawmakers need to tackle.

“For as long as we keep thinking that we can fix all other peripheral and insignificant things and leave the crux of the issues, which is corruption, we will not retain South Africa. We need to fight corruption with a renewed aggression,” said Mda.

A landmark court ruling delivered in December reduced the number of signatures required for independent candidates to participate in the election from over 11,000 to just 1,000 signatures.

That has significantly reduced the high barrier for independents to contest elections, and the move has been widely lauded as a step towards deepening South Africa’s democracy.

Just over 27 million of a total population of 62 million are registered to vote in the country’s seventh fully democratic national election since 1994.

The ruling ANC, which has been in power since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule 30 years ago, is expected to lose much of its support as many disillusioned voters turn to an array of opposition parties.

Seventy parties — the most ever — and 10 independent candidates are registered to contest the 400 seats in the country’s parliament.

The members of parliament will then elect the president. At least 201 votes are needed to successfully elect the country’s leader.

Mda said it was disappointing that exactly 30 years since the end of white minority rule in 1994, the majority of Black people in the country remained poor.

She said the country is in need of serious economic reforms because the policies of the current government continue to disproportionately benefit white South Africans.

While South Africa is regarded as Africa’s most advanced economy, it has an unemployment rate of 32% — the highest in the world — and more than half of South Africans are living in poverty, according to the World Bank.

“We do not need leaders who are going to occupy office just so they can preside over a post-colonization of South Africa under the pretext of democracy,” she said.

“You need not drive an apologetic posture of why there is a need for Black empowerment,” she added.


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