The party that helped end Apartheid looks likely to lose some ground in South Africa’s local elections.
The African National Congress (ANC) may be the country’s strongest political bloc, but its popularity is dwindling – especially among black voters; and some plan to make their voices heard on Wednesday, Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa reported from Johannesburg.
The ANC, in power since the end of apartheid 17 years ago, is expected to storm to victory given the public esteem it still enjoys for bringing down the white-minority rule.
But the ANC and its leader, President Jacob Zuma, could be embarrassed by any gains for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which runs Cape Town and has campaigned as the party that can deliver municipal services.
Shadrack Gutto, a professor of African Renaissance Studies at the University of South Africa, told Al Jazeera that ANC has failed to deliver on many of its promises, on issues of high concern to its core voters, such as better services, less corruption, the provision of housing and drinking water.
The DA, meanwhile has concentrated its campaign on the low-income black population that has largely voted for the ANC in previous elections.
“We are dealing with a situation where incumbency sometimes gives an advantage, and sometimes a disadvantage,” he explained.
“This is a big day for us nationally not just in the Western Cape,” Hellen Zille, the DA leader, said after casting her vote.
“It’s neck and neck there so I want to encourage all of our supporters to go out and vote because we are building this democracy,” Zille said.
“It’s very bad to have single party dominance and the DA has proved that we deliver better for all.”
What once appeared as a dull race for control of 278 municipalities, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria, has heated up as a row over toilets, whose users are exposed to public view.
The issue has dominated headlines.
The ANC scored political points a few months ago when it found the DA had not built walls around public toilets in shantytowns in an area it controlled.
But it came under fire when it was revealed just before the vote to have done the same, with a local ANC official being paid state funds despite the shoddy construction.
Since Zuma took power in 2009, the ANC has faced violent protests from its traditional base of poor blacks. Many are frustrated with the slow delivery of electricity, sanitation, functioning schools and basic health care since the country’s first all-race election in 1994.
Any decline in voter turnout, which was 48.4 per cent in 2006, or gains by the DA in major urban areas, would deal a heavy blow to Zuma and could undermine him and embolden his rivals in the highly splintered ruling party.