Thursday, 23 June 2016

Testing times for Zuma

From the start of the year, it's been clear that South Africa's local elections on 3 August would be a critical test of President Jacob Zuma's survival skills. There have been contradictory signs: it looked increasingly likely that Zuma would be pushed to resign before his second term ends in 2019. Then last month, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the governing African National Congress gave Zuma a resounding endorsement and wound up an investigation into some of his business allies.

Whether it was Zuma's charm and charisma, which shouldn't be underrated, or the ANC's instinct for self-preservation before tough elections, it seemed the activists were closing ranks. Far from it. The trouble started in Gauteng, when the NEC tried to impose its choice of Thoko Didiza, a Zuma ally and former Agriculture Minister, as the ANC's candidate for Mayor of the Tshwane municipality, which includes Pretoria, and push out the incumbent mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.

Protestors clashed with police in several townships around Pretoria; two people were shot dead in Mamelodi township on 20 June. There are similar disputes between the NEC and local ANC branches about the choice of candidates in the municipalities of Johannesburg, also in Gauteng, and Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape Province. The latest Ipsos opinion poll suggests that the ANC will lose overall control of all three councils to resurgent opposition parties, led by the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

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