HomeTop StoriesAs elections approach in South Africa, one candidate is leaving the political...

As elections approach in South Africa, one candidate is leaving the political parties behind and going it alone

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An outspoken former activist and member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will be among 10 independent candidates seeking to become a lawmaker for the first time in the country’s history.

South Africa will allow independent candidates to run in the country’s national elections for the first time next week, following a landmark ruling by the top court last year.

Anele Mda was among the members of the ANC who broke away from the party in 2008 to form the Congress of the People, which contested elections the following year. They won more than 7% of the national vote, becoming the second largest opposition party in parliament.

However, due to the political infighting within the party, the party gradually lost support and seats in parliament, from 30 in 2009 to just two in the 2019 elections.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of what is expected to be a highly contentious election on May 29, Mda said she had given up on political parties to bring about any meaningful change in the country.

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“It’s not about serving the interests of the people,” she said. “It is about serving the party, its members and its interests, but this comes at the expense of using the resources provided by the power that comes with the vote.”

As she travels the country to convince as many South Africans as possible to vote for her, Mda highlighted government corruption and state-owned enterprises as priorities that lawmakers must tackle.

“As long as we continue to think that we can solve all the other peripheral and insignificant issues and ignore the core of the problems, which is corruption, we will not keep South Africa. We must fight corruption with renewed aggression,” Mda said.

A landmark court ruling in December reduced the number of signatures required by independent candidates to participate in the election from more than 11,000 to just 1,000 signatures.

This has significantly reduced the high barrier for independents to participate in elections, and the move has been widely hailed as a step towards deepening democracy in South Africa.

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Just over 27 million of a total population of 62 million are registered to vote in the country’s seventh fully democratic national election since 1994.

The ruling ANC, which has been in power since the end of the white minority apartheid system 30 years ago, is expected to lose much of its support as many disillusioned voters turn to a range of opposition parties.

Seventy parties – the most ever – and ten independent candidates have been registered to contest the country’s 400 seats in parliament.

Then the parliamentarians elect the president. At least 201 votes are needed to successfully elect the country’s leader.

Mda said it was disappointing that exactly 30 years after the end of white minority rule in 1994, the majority of black people in the country remained poor.

She said the country needs serious economic reforms because the current government’s policies disproportionately benefit white South Africans.

Although South Africa is considered Africa’s most advanced economy, it has an unemployment rate of 32% – the highest in the world – and more than half of South Africans live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

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“We don’t need leaders running for office just so we can preside over a post-colonization of South Africa under the pretext of democracy,” she said.

“You don’t have to take an apologetic stance and explain why there is a need for black empowerment,” she added.

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AP Africa News: https://apnews.com/hub/africa

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