The people have spoken!
by Anna Pha "The people have spoken!", said African National Congress President Thabo Mbeki, in a statement on the May 2 general elections. "The people have unequivocally said the ANC leads!" "In their millions and without hesitation, the people of South Africa have renewed the mandate of the ANC to govern our country. The poorest of the poor have said they trust the ANC to help them out of their conditions of misery." The ANC received 66.36 per cent of the national vote giving it 266 parliamentary seats compared with 62.65 per cent and 252 seats in 1994. The second highest vote went to the pro-big business Democratic Party, 9.55 per cent of the votes and 38 seats, up from 1.73 per cent and seven seats in 1994. Much of its increased vote can be attributed to the departure of racists and neo-nazis from the National Party which lost almost two thirds of its seats, leaving it with 28 seats (6.87 per cent of the vote), as against 82 seats in 1994. The Inkatha Freedom Party's (IFP) vote also declined from 43 in 1994 to 34 seats. The Pan African Congress got three seats with less than one per cent of the national vote. In the voting for provincial governments, the ANC received the largest vote of any party, 42 per cent, in the Western Cape, gaining support from coloured and white as well as black voters. The National Party is trying to hold onto government by forming a coalition with other smaller parties. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Inkatha Freedom Party won 34 seats and the ANC 32, with smaller parties picking up 14. There is speculation on the possibility of a coalition between the IFP and ANC. The ANC victory was welcomed by the ANC's Alliance partners, the Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU who were fully involved in the campaign to elect an ANC government. "The Tripartite Alliance is now faced with the task of transforming the manifesto into a programme for the next period of governance. There is unanimity about the centrality of the RDP [reconstruction and development programme] as the basis of such a programme", said COSATU spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga. There has been sharp criticism of GEAR, the government's economic policy, from alliance ranks, particularly over privatisation and other macro economic policies adopted under pressures from the IMF and foreign capital. The ANC, COSATU and SACP resisted external pressure and provocations over GEAR, that were aimed at causing divisions and eventually breaking up the alliance. "Since mid-1996 there has been a constructive debate on GEAR within the alliance", the SACP said in a call to workers and socialists to vote for the ANC. "Together, we have made progress, reflected in the ANC election manifesto." The SACP pointed to some of the important achievements over the previous five years: * workers' rights entrenched in the new Constitution, including the right to form trade unions and the right to strike; * improved working conditions; * 700,000 houses built, sheltering more than 3 million people; * 2 million households connected to electricity; * 3 million provided with water; and * 3 million new phone lines. In the provision of services priority was given to the poor. The condition of the economy after decades of apartheid, the poverty and lack of basic infrastructure remain major challenges for the new government. "The people have directed us to move forward faster with our programme for reconstruction and development so that the goal of a better life for all is achieved sooner rather than later", said Thabo Mbeki.