23 May 2024, 10:26

Graft, jobs, immigration: S. Africa's key election issues

PRETORIA, South Africa, May 23, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - South Africans head to
polls on May 29 in the most competitive general election in three decades,
where the ruling African National Congress faces growing disillusionment and
risks losing its outright majority.

Here are five main points shaping the ballot to elect a new National Assembly
whose members will vote for the president.

- A third of South Africans unemployed -

South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. As a
result, millions of people in the continent's most industrialised economy
live in poverty.

Out of a population of 62 million, 32.9 percent are unemployed -- far more
than when the ANC came into power -- and 28 million rely on welfare grants to

The rise of unemployment has been fuelled by the country's almost stagnant
economy over the last decade and only grew 0.6 percent in 2023.

"Born frees", young people born post-apartheid, are the largest victims of
the jobless rate, with youth unemployment sitting at more than 40 percent.

- Anti-foreigner sentiment -
Despite the lack of jobs, South Africa attracts many economic migrants from
elsewhere in Africa, with some 2.4 million foreigners officially registered
in the country.

Out of the more than 50 competing parties, several have mobilised xenophobic
sentiment as part of their campaign messaging.

The nation is periodically plagued by anti-immigrant violence. Sixty-two
people died in riots in 2008 and violent clashes broke out in 2015, 2016 and
again in 2019.

In April, the government approved a reform of the immigration laws that, if
adopted, would increase the number of deportations.

- Plagued by corruption -

For many, the storied ANC has become synonymous with corruption.

Party membership has dropped by more than 30 percent in the last five years,
according to an organisational report in 2022.

Recently a string of senior ANC politicians, including the then-president,
vice president and speaker of parliament, have been embroiled in graft

A ground-breaking probe into state corruption under ex-leader Jacob Zuma
between 2009 and 2018 exposed looting of public coffers for years.

Yet to date, no significant progress has been made in prosecuting those
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came into office promising a "new dawn" after
Zuma's scandal-rocked tenure, came under fire in 2022 when he was accused of
concealing the theft of a huge haul of foreign currency from his farm instead
of reporting it to police.

A police investigation is still under way.

- Water and electricity woes -

South Africans remain vexed by a prolonged electricity crisis that has put a
drag on the economy, as the debt-laden state energy firm Eskom fails to
produce enough electricity and struggles to maintain power stations.

The outages started on a very low level 15 years ago but scaled up
calamitously last year, leaving consumers without power for up to 12 hours a

But the power cuts stopped at the end of March, a move that many suspect to
be a temporary fix for the ANC to gain favour ahead of the vote.

Although South Africa is one of the globe's largest greenhouse polluters, the
environmental issue has almost been absent in election campaigning.

The country's net zero ambitions and transition to cleaner energy have so far
proven difficult, with solar accounting for under three percent of
electricity production, according to Eskom.

- Rape and murder -

South Africa recorded almost 84 murders a day between October and December,
according to police statistics.

Apart from countries at war, South Africa's per capita homicide rate is one
of the highest in the world.

In addition, one rape is recorded every 11 minutes, official figures show in
the country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Although authorities have talked tough about cracking down on rampant crime
ahead of the poll, quarterly statistics presented by the police show a steady


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