Mandela’s Heirs Lose Power in South Africa

Mandela's Heirs

By Alexander Braterskiy

South African authorities warn that if the opposition wins the parliamentary elections, the country may change course and leave the informal BRICS economic bloc, which includes Russia. The position of the African National Congress party, which has been in power since the collapse of apartheid, is indeed not the best, as shown by the municipal elections held earlier in the country. The opposition accuses the president of corruption and abuse of power, as well as an inability to cope with the country’s energy crisis. The ANC crisis occurred on the 30th anniversary of the first free elections in South Africa.

South African Ambassador to Russia Mzuvukile Jeff Maketuka believes that if the opposition wins the parliamentary elections this year, the country may leave the BRICS association. “If the official opposition wins the election, there will be a change in South Africa’s foreign policy position. There is a high probability that if this happens, South Africa will be withdrawn from BRICS,” the ambassador said in a recent interview with TASS.

Considering that the ambassador does not express his point of view, but expresses the position of the state, these words can be taken quite seriously. The ambassador even cited the example of Argentina, which, after the victory of populist Javier Millay in the elections, refused to join BRICS. However, if Argentina was just about to become a member of an informal but influential organization, then South Africa is a country that can be called one of the “founding fathers” of BRICS.

Elections in South Africa, which will be held at the end of May, could become a turning point for the country due to the possible loss of power of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. “The African National Congress, of course, played its rightful role during apartheid and secured the political independence of South Africa. Thereafter, it continued to play a huge role after independence in nation-building and economic development. But from the days of Jacob Zuma to Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC became deeply corrupt, signing opaque deals with outside players. There are serious doubts about the integrity of the ANC. This is opportunism at its worst, not the human rights they fight for. In essence, the ANC’s policy is focused on the global trend – business deals for money,” African publicist Kester Kenn Klomegah tells

It is symbolic that, simultaneously with the elections, the country will mark 30 years since the collapse of the apartheid system, a rigid authoritarian system of rule by the white minority. The long-standing policy was associated with a system of racial discrimination in which members of the African population were considered second-class citizens.

“The Pretoria regime guards the interests of imperialism in Africa” – this phrase from the Soviet magazine “International Affairs” in 1985 is familiar to almost everyone who grew up in the USSR. At the same time, it must be said that in terms of attitude towards apartheid, the USSR was on the right side of history, unlike many Western countries that sold weapons to this country despite international sanctions. The USSR also actively contributed to the establishment of democracy in South Africa. The former head of TASS, Vitaly Ignatenko, recalls how he handed over a letter from South African President Frederik de Klerk to the head of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Eduard Shevardnadze. The country’s authorities were looking for opportunities to establish relations with the USSR on the wave of democratization.

The head of the then-white minority regime, de Klerk, began “democratization from above” in the country. He was released from prison by the main enemy of the regime, Nelson Mandela, who had spent more than 26 years in prison. Mandela’s release marked the beginning of the end of apartheid: in 1994, the country held its first free elections, in which the ANC won a majority. The former opponents came to reconciliation through a special commission, at which members of the former regime asked for forgiveness from the victims. In 1994, Mandela was elected president of the country, leaving office in 1999.

Breach of contract

However, the euphoria of the first years of democratization and economic growth has passed. As economist Timothy Taylor writes on his Conversable Economist blog, the 1994 changes “created few winners.” “In this view, South Africa’s democracy was built on the simple assumption that a growing black elite and middle class could compromise with anyone, provided that each generation of black South Africans did better than the last,” the author writes.

All this continued for the first 15 years, and although “inequality remained enormous, the bottom quarter of the population was able to rise through the expansion of the welfare state. However, after the global crisis of 2008, the era of state capture under former President Jacob Zuma and COVID, this “founding treaty” was broken.”

According to the IMF, South Africa’s economy grew by 0.4% in 2023. The fund’s economists also note that one of the country’s main problems is the increased level of public debt, one of the highest among developing countries. As IMF experts write, it “limits the government’s ability to respond to shocks and meet growing social and development needs. Stabilizing the country’s debt and making room in the budget for targeted social spending and public investment will require cuts to the government’s wage bill and transfers to state-owned enterprises.”

The situation is also reflected in the purchasing power of South Africans. 44% of consumers spent less during the holiday season than the previous year, largely due to lower income, and only 30% spent more than they did in 2022, according to a Citibank survey.

Return to the same problems

The ANC party, which came to power after the fall of apartheid, still has a majority in parliament, but 30 years later its position is not the best. “The 2024 elections in South Africa may become a turning point in its history,” note the Institute of African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and remind that according to the results of municipal elections in 2021, the number of votes cast for the party decreased to 45.6%.

According to an October 2023 poll by the Social Research Foundation (SRF), only 45% of voters would vote for the ANC if elections were held tomorrow, down from 52% in March.

The sympathies of many South African voters are on the side of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, which takes liberal positions in contrast to the left-wing ANC. Its leader is white, South African citizen John Steenhuisen, but black politicians also occupy high positions in the party. The party is critical of Russia’s Northern Military District in Ukraine. During the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2023, the party appealed to the South African court demanding the execution of the decision of the International Criminal Court. Earlier, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin and the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova because they were allegedly involved in the illegal removal of Ukrainian children. As the South African Ambassador to Russia, Maketuka, noted in an interview with TASS, “the main opposition party is not a friend of Russia.”

Citizens of South Africa, 30 years later, are concerned about the same problems as before: inequality, poverty, unemployment, which has grown significantly among young Africans. According to government data cited by the Associated Press, unemployment covers more than 33% of the country’s residents. Among young people, the unemployment rate is 61%. Because of the current situation, many of the older generations even yearn for the times of apartheid, when they lived, albeit in fear, but with a roof over their heads.

However, there are still improvements in South Africa, writes Bloomberg, noting a drop in the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 2021. However, economists warn that this effect could fade as electricity supply problems worsen.

“Power outages, volatile commodity prices and challenging external conditions have contributed to the country’s weak economic growth performance,” the IMF report said.

The problem with the shortage of electricity in the country has been around for a long time – many substations have fallen into disrepair, they are more than 50 years old, and the available generating capacity is declining. The national energy company is forced to limit the supply of electricity to avoid a collapse. The country’s central bank says power woes cost the economy $13 billion in 2023 alone. Significant investments are needed to improve the situation.

Hope is pinned on China, which is actively represented in such sectors of the country’s economy as mining, telecommunications, and electronics manufacturing. According to government data, the total level of Chinese investment in the South African economy amounted to 200 billion rand, more than $10 billion.

The potential of South Africa also promises opportunities for Russian business, but so far there are few large Russian projects in this country. However, South Africa sees opportunities to strengthen cooperation with Russia against the backdrop of weakening ties between Moscow and the “collective West.” Moreover, among South Africa’s largest trading partners, besides China, are countries such as the USA, Germany, and the UK. A multi-vector policy for developing economic ties with the whole world, and albeit sometimes creakingly, but working democratic institutions, is also a legacy of the victory over apartheid and a reflection of Mandela’s words, which, however, were only partially realized. “Throughout my life, I have devoted myself entirely to the struggle for the African population. I fought against both white supremacy and black supremacy. I revered the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all citizens live in harmony and have equal opportunity.”

This article first appeared in Finam media and was reposted with the author’s permission.

Leave a Reply

CAA Climate Innovation for Sustainable Future
Previous Story

CAA Reaffirms Commitment to Climate Innovation for Sustainable Future

her dark past
Next Story

MTF Class of 2023 to Premiere Her Dark Past, Grown

Latest from World

Don't Miss