ANC victory in South Africa a watershed for party
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"They painted themselves into a small corner," Mbeki says. "Many people thought the ANC was going to struggle to keep its two-thirds majority."Skip to next paragraph
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COPE and the white-dominated Democratic Alliance (DA) did slightly dent the ANC in most parts of the country, but the loss was more than made up for in the Zulu heartland KwaZulu Natal, Zuma's homeland, where the ANC went on to a solid victory.
The ANC delivered a blow to the Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a traditional Zulu leader who was a key figure around the time of transition to democracy. Figures show that the ANC will rule the province, which was formerly dominated by Inkhata.
But in the Western Cape Province, which includes Cape Town, the opposition DA gave a surprisingly strong showing, coming up with 50 percent of the vote and catapulting its leader Helen Zille, the mayor of Cape Town, to premiere or provincial governor. The DA garnered about 16 percent of the total vote.
Moeletsi Mbeki said that the ANC is still seen by many black South Africans as the guarantor of their prosperity and protector from the 4 million whites who still control more than 90 percent of the economy.
"The key to understanding why the ANC has a lock on two-thirds is to realize that about 50 percent of people are stuck in poverty, and another 20 percent or so of the black middle class and the beneficiaries of the BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] policies are dependent on government either through employment or social grants," he adds. "Whether it was Zuma or the angel Gabriel heading the party, as long as the ANC controlled the government, they are going to vote for the ANC."
"There is this caricature of him as the man in the leopard skin, which is misleading," Ms. Taljaard says. "I haven't met anyone who doesn't instinctively like him."
But, she says, "Zuma is facing an educational crisis potentially greater than the HIV/AIDS crisis. There is a fear of a revolving door of BEE Mbeki elites being replaced by Zuma elites."
She noted that Zuma owes his political survival to labor union leaders and officials of the South African Community Party, part of the ANC governing coalition, who came to his aid when he was fighting for his political life. "There is lots of loyalty to be paid off ... [a] deep expectation of a quid pro quo," she adds.