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
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.