Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Africa Brief. This year’s highlights include: Elections in key countries, authoritarian rule likely to be entrenched in Rwanda and Tunisia, and democracy deferred in the Sahel. If you would like to receive Africa Brief in your inbox every Wednesday, please sign up here. Will the ANC Lose Its Hold on Power? South Africa’s upcoming election is set to be the tightest race since the end of apartheid in 1994. The governing African National Congress’s voter base is eroding and the party is in danger of losing an overall majority. Though a date has not been announced, the election must take place within 90 days of the end of Parliament’s term in mid-May. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been plagued by troubles for most of his five-year term. The “Farmgate” scandal, involving an alleged heist and undeclared cash in a sofa, proved to be the least of the party’s worries. Ramaphosa faced a possible impeachment hearing back in December 2022 after an independent panel concluded that he may have broken anti-corruption laws over the 2020 theft of $580,000 buried in the furniture at his Phala Phala game farm. The incident highlighted problems within the African National Congress (ANC)—a party marred by widespread corruption in government. Meanwhile, the country faces high unemployment levels, failing energy infrastructure, and soaring crime rates. The wealth gap between Black and white South Africans makes the country the world’s most unequal society, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, former President Jacob Zuma hovers in the background as a campaign spoiler and a symbol of the ANC’s failure to tackle corruption. Zuma said last month that he would not vote for the ANC and extended his support for the newly formed Umkhonto we Sizwe party, named after the ANC’s defunct armed wing. Yet many South Africans wonder why Zuma remains out of prison. The worst unrest in the country’s post-apartheid era erupted in 2021, after Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for refusing to testify before the inquiry investigating systemic corruption and cronyism under his presidency. Much of the rioting took place in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where he enjoys significant support. He spent two months in prison before being released on medical grounds. The release was later ruled illegal, but it did not last. Zuma was then conveniently released under a program to ease prison overcrowding. The ANC faces strong competition. The centrist Democratic Alliance—the largest opposition party, whose support is strongest among white South Africans—believes that it could make a bigger dent than usual in the ruling party’s numbers this year, due to the ANC hemorrhaging Black voters. The ANC has only a 7 percent polling lead, according to the Democratic Alliance’s own polling. The far-left populist Economic Freedom Fighters party has drawn support from the ANC’s Black voters, becoming the country’s third-largest party over the past decade. The election promises to be a close race, raising the likelihood of the country being led by a coalition government for the first time in the post-apartheid era. Africa will hold 18 elections this year, including in Algeria and South Sudan. Here are the votes with major political and economic consequences for Africa in 2024. Africa’s Election Year Ahead Sunday, Feb. 25: Senegal holds presidential elections. Monday, July 15, to Tuesday, July 16: National elections take place in Rwanda. Wednesday, Oct. 9: Presidential and legislative elections in Mozambique. Sunday, Nov. 24: Presidential elections are scheduled in Tunisia. Saturday, Dec. 7: Ghana holds presidential and legislative elections. Like in South Africa, many African countries face political, economic, and social turmoil, with high stakes for the continent. For more on the upcoming elections and Africa’s political landscape, stay tuned to Foreign Policy’s coverage.

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