(GIN)—This week’s municipal polls will reveal the depth of disenchantment with the historic African National Congress.
Massive unemployment, failing basic services and corruption have fueled discontent among the ANC’s stalwart base of support. Some voters will be pulling the lever for a different party this week in what was long inconceivable—abandoning the party of Nelson Mandela, which headed the struggle against white minority rule and was elected by ballot in 1994.
Former ANC treasurer Matthew Phosa was questioned by a BBC reporter. “You’ve supported [President] Jacob Zuma in the past,” the reporter said. “What has changed?”
“We knew less about Zuma being corrupt,” Phosa replied. “There was no Nkandla when we supported him. I’ve known him 43 years, I supported him, I admired him, I respected him … But in a political situation you cannot be in denial.”
Earlier, in a speech to business leaders, he said bluntly, “The president’s occupation of his current position has become even more controversial than before. … We need a new beginning, fresh and selfless leadership and a collective that finds a cause bigger than itself. We have an economy in trouble, society in turmoil, state capture in the making and rampant sycophancy. When will the emperor realize that he is naked?”
Nkandla, the private estate of Zuma, was handsomely renovated with government funds. After an investigation, the Constitutional Court in April issued a harsh judgement, finding the president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution. It ordered him to personally repay the government within 45 days.
With elections drawing near, Zuma has appeared at various rallies. Addressing a filled-to-capacity Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, broadcast live to other stadiums, Zuma took responsibility for some of the country’s troubles.
“There is a Cape Town that caters for the needs of the rich and wealthy, which are prioritized, and another which leaves the poor unserviced and under-developed,” he was reported to have said by News24Wire. “The ANC will work to win back the city so that the poor can also be taken seriously.”
The party had knocked on thousands of doors, he said, and had heard people’s dissatisfaction and what it meant to South Africans to “advance people’s power.”
Still, recent polls show the ANC neck and neck in some of the country’s large urban centers. ANC candidate for mayor of Johannesburg, Parks Tau, and Democratic Alliance candidate Herman Mashaba are holding even. Another poll found 62 percent of residents “very likely” to vote, followed by 30 percent “likely”—a much higher number than vote in the U.S.
The ANC, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters are just three of 204 parties contesting—68 percent more than the number in the 2011 poll.
“There has been hot air and cold lies, big dreams and empty promises, bloodshed and broken lives,” wrote Daily Maverick editor Ranjeni Munusamy. “Our country is messy but the pulse of democracy is certainly something to celebrate.”
YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS COMPLETE US TOUR AND PREPARE TO MEET OBAMA
With media attention glued to the salacious details of the U.S. election, a signature program of President Obama is flying under the radar, preparing young African leaders with advanced leadership skills to bring home to their countries.
Participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders are enrolled in an intensive, six-week program on academic excellence and leadership focused on business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, public management and renewable energy at U.S. colleges and universities.
Through these courses, the program works in conjunction with the White House’s policy goals for promoting trade and investment with sub-Saharan African countries.
The African Fellows are highly accomplished leaders in their respective fields. Most have master’s degrees and already own their own businesses. Participants are chosen from 30,000 applicants from every sub-Saharan country.
“It’s 25 of the best and brightest minds of 20 different African countries,” observed Carina Black, executive director of the Northern Nevada International Center and the University of Nevada, Reno. “Seeing the impact that they’re having on our community is pretty amazing.”
Fellow Gadza Makopola of Botswana says the U.S. strategy of targeting the young minds of Africa’s brightest is a welcome change to foreign policy in the region.
“The beautiful thing about the fellowship is that the U.S. targeted the most important resource, which in my opinion is the youth, with a different approach,” said Makopola. “It is now done with respect and we are being looked at now as partners, not as people to colonize. While other countries are targeting resources from the ground, President Obama’s strategy was to target the minds.”
Other participating schools include the University of Notre Dame, the University of Texas at Austin, Dartmouth College, Rutgers University, Tulane University, Arizona State University, University of California, Berkeley, the University of Virginia, Howard University, Georgia State and Syracuse University.
The fellowship is funded by the Young African Leadership Initiative, a State Department program dedicated to promoting partnerships with sub-Saharan African countries.
Of the 10,000 applications for the fellowship from Nigeria, 100 were chosen, among them Otto Orondaam, who founded Slum2School, which is now one of the largest volunteer-driven nonprofits in Nigeria “providing access to education and psycho-social support for disadvantaged children in slums and remote communities,” Orondaam said in an interview with Bella Naija.
Fellow Amadou Boukar from Niger, who holds a master’s degree in business law, enthused on Instagram: “The first half of the day was powerful. So proud to be among these unbelievable leaders. Africa has a bright future.”
For some of the young people, the best is yet to come as they meet with Obama this week at an informal “town hall” and he selects among their submitted questions to answer.
“Ever dream of asking Obama a question?” tweeted YALI, the Young African Leaders Initiative. From their breathless social media posts, questions will not be in short supply.