Anger in Mpumalanga: The Decline of ANC Amid Power Struggles and Broken Promises

In Mpumalanga, South Africa, increasing dissatisfaction with the African National Congress (ANC) is evident as they face their worst election results. Residents, plagued by unemployment and poor living conditions, express frustration over broken promises. The rising popularity of the new uMkhonto we Sizwe party highlights the growing demand for change.


Reuters | Updated: 31-05-2024 13:23 IST | Created: 31-05-2024 13:23 IST
Anger in Mpumalanga: The Decline of ANC Amid Power Struggles and Broken Promises

With South Africa's ruling party on track to get about 42% of the vote in the national election, the anger in its heartland coal-mining belt gives a hint as to why it faces its worst result ever - and the prospect of sharing power with its rivals. In the township of Botleng - once a source of cheap farm labour for the country's hated white minority ex-rulers - roads are riddled with potholes, power cuts frequent and unemployed youths smoke cheap heroin to ease boredom and despair. Car wash owner Emmanuel Mthimunye, 34, says he had always cast his ballot for the African National Congress in the past. This time he wants to see something different.

"I don't want to see unemployment, I don't want to see those shacks," he told Reuters, gesturing to some tin edifices set against yellowing grass littered with trash. "I don't want to see those potholes, I don't want to see young guys smoking nyaope (heroin mixed with cannabis) ... because there's nothing else to do."

For Mthimunye and others in Mpumalanga, the province where the town of Botleng is situated, the promises of a better life for the country's Black majority after Nelson Mandela propelled the ANC to victory 30 years ago ring hollow. That may explain why the party's share of the vote in the eastern province has tumbled to 53% currently from 72% in the previous poll in 2019. One such promise was government-sponsored housing, for which Mthimunye applied in 2012 and is still waiting. He says he sought financial support for his business but failed - something he blames on a lack of connections with anyone in the party's local office. He worries about not being able to afford his rent and ending up in a makeshift shack as well.

"Those guys (the ANC) fought for freedom but that freedom has slowly but surely been taken away from us," he said. "We can't do anything with no money." An ANC spokesperson declined to comment on the accusations of failing to deliver on promises or nepotism, and ANC leaders have said little about these widespread claims. In a church service in Cape Town earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted the ruling party had made "mistakes".

"We have humbled ourselves and admitted where we have gone wrong. Our focus is on fixing those mistakes and working hard to renew the ANC," he said. "YOU GET NO HELP"

Mpumalanga has for decades attracted poor Black South Africans to jobs in coal mining or power stations, which keep the nation's lights on. But its townships suffer major power shortages while a decline in the business as coal-fired power stations get retired or break down has left many out of work. With nearly 55% of votes counted nationally, Electoral Commission data showed the biggest hit to the ANC's majority comes from the new uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party set up by ex-president Jacob Zuma in December. MK is the party Mthimunye voted for, and it has snatched 11% of the national vote. In Mpumalanga, the MK has 18% - the main driver behind the ANC's share falling to just under half, compared with 72% in the previous 2019 poll. The pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA) and far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) rose by 2 and 1 percentage points respectively to 12% and 13%. A court barred Zuma from running as MK candidate because of his conviction for contempt of court in one of several corruption trials against him, but for supporters like Lenie Modise, 35, unemployed, "Jacob Zuma knows the mistakes he made and so he won't do it anymore."

Other defectors to the MK party, like Eugene Du Toit, 31 and also unemployed, just saw the appeal of a new party and didn't associate it with Zuma, while 34-year-old Nomsa Masango, hopes any change will improve her chances of finding a job. "I used to vote ANC," she said, donning her green-and-black MK T-shirt. "I switched when I saw no change in my life."

She begged her local ANC councilor to help her find work, but, she says, he didn't help her because she wasn't a friend or relative. "If you don't know anyone, you get no help," she said. Across the province, the resentment runs deep. "Why are we in Mpumalanga being load-shedded (having our power cut) when it's us producing the electricity," Julius Mohadi, 28, a teacher, said. He grew up in a family that campaigned for the ANC but now he votes EFF. "The ANC really forgot about us," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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