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Hein Marais on the ANC’s “Puzzling Winning Streak” and Julius Malema’s “Populist Nationalism”

South Africa Pushed to the LimitSouth Africa Pushed to the Limit author Hein Marais assesses the result of the May election, arguing that despite “widespread disgruntlement” at state performance, most of the country remains loyal to the ruling party. Marais also says politics of identity and entitlement may develop into a form of “populist nationalism” and that the one person willing to risk this development may be Julius Malema:

Apart from death and taxes – and the Western Cape – there are few things in life as certain as the outcome of an election with the ANC on the ballot paper. Last week’s local government elections again upended most of the contrary speculation that had preceded it.

The ANC’s 63.5 percent of votes was close to the 66 percent it netted in the 2006 local government election and in the 2009 national and provincial polls.

In the spotlight again is the question: how does a political party that presides over one of the most unequal societies in the world, where one third of workers are jobless and close to half the citizens live in poverty, triumph so emphatically in election after election?

The election outcome presents the ANC with little more than temporary respite. Disgruntlement and community protests will continue, and the party’s authority will be tested, not least by its own supporters.

These are not teething problems. They are anchored in deeper economic and social crises that date back to the 1970s, and which the ANC government has not yet been able to resolve. It has worked to improve the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty; jobs are scarce, the country is more unequal than ever, and insecurity is rife.

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