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POLITICS-SOUTH AFRICA: ANC Scores Another Victory: Now Deliver, Voters Say

Davison Makanga

CAPE TOWN, Apr 24 2009 (IPS) - As results of South Africa's fourth democratic elections held on Apr. 22 come in, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is poised to return to power in the 400 seat National Assembly. The party is also on course to emerge as the governing party in all but one of the nine provinces. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is likely to take the Western Cape.

Buoyed by early voting trends, thousands of ANC supporters descended on the Johannesburg city centre for a celebration rally on Thursday. ANC president Jacob Zuma, who will become his country’s fourth president since the 1994 election ushered Nelson Mandela into office, paid tribute to the party faithful.

"This is for us to thank volunteers who went door to door talking to the South African voters to vote for the African National Congress."

Jacob Simpson, an ANC supporter from the country’s economic hub, Johannesburg, told IPS that he was excited by his party’s "inevitable" victory. "It’s a wonderful feeling, it goes to show that our democracy is growing," he said.

But Cape Town resident John Frere was in a less upbeat mood claiming it was "unnecessary" for the ruling party to celebrate "an expected victory".

"I think the ruling party can start off on a very good foot by not again wasting billions and billions of rand on their partying. They have been having parties before the elections, so we don't need any more parties," moaned Frere. "They should rather put that money on helping the poor and building houses."

Frere’s view signals the expectation that a Zuma-led ANC would deliver on its election promises to ease poverty, create jobs, improve health services and education, focus on rural development and deal with high levels of crime.

Nosiviwe Ntini voted for the ANC because of their campaign commitment to better jobs and salaries. She has to commute to her security officer job in Cape Town’s central business district from Gugulethu, a densely populated poor community typical of the country’s urban townships. "I'm currently getting a pathetic salary and I’m really confident that the new government will fulfill its promises."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the largest worker federation in the country, has also urged the ANC to deliver to its constituency.

"While we are celebrating we should bear in mind that it is still a long way to go before we relax. It is now that the ANC, trade unions and the nation at large must work together and begin to implement the policies enshrined in the ANC manifesto," said COSATU national spokesperson Patrick Craven.

COSATU is an alliance partner of the ruling party and was one of Zuma’s major backers in his bid for the ANC presidency. Senior ANC members split from the party following Thabo Mbeki’s failed bid for a third term as ANC president and his subsequent axing as president of the country.

Political researcher Justin Sylvester of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) warns of a tough term ahead for Zuma and the ANC. He said the new president will be under pressure from his supporters to speedily implement its election manifesto but could find that difficult in the current global economic crisis.

"The realities in South Africa is that there are a range of socio-economic challenges, the main being unemployment, education, healthcare and those basic services like sanitation especially to the people in rural areas."

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is an organisation that lobbies for access to treatment for people living with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Fredalene Booysen, the TAC’s Western Cape provincial coordinator told IPS that the new leadership in government should step up tuberculosis treatment programmes. She said TB, a common opportunistic infection for people living with HIV/AIDS currently does not get enough attention from the government.

"We still have long waiting queues, we still have a shortage of healthcare nurses, and we still haven't dealt with people on farms in terms of accessing treatment or healthcare. Those are relevant issues still to be dealt with."

Another health activist, Onisimo Jodana, accused the government of abandoning several health initiatives and putting lives at risk. He told IPS that the government should monitor grassroots programmes and work with community groups to improve service delivery.

"Now that we are moving into the next era of democracy, there must be a process that coordinates activities from the ground. You can't have a government monitoring from the top without local structures having to feedback. There is need for a reorientation and re-strategising given the forthcoming situation."

The outcome of South Africa's fourth democratic elections held on April 22 will be officially announced by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission on Saturday.

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