ANC faces a host of challengers in next South African elections

The African National Congress, which has dominated all post-apartheid elections in South Africa, faces a variety of opponents on the 2014 ballot. Here are the leading ones.

The Democratic Alliance. Led by Helen Zille, a former journalist, the party captured more than 16 percent of the vote in the last elections in 2009. Zille was mayor of Cape Town and is now premier of the Western Cape province, the party’s stronghold. Though it grew out of the white opposition to apartheid, the party has a diverse slate.

The party’s opinion polling shows that the ANC is most vulnerable among voters younger than 40 and those unhappy with their jobs. Its polling operation has been helped by Stanley Greenberg, who as a Yale political science professor wrote a book about South Africa before he became well known as President Clinton’s pollster. In earlier elections, Greenberg advised the ANC.

The Democratic Alliance is vowing to create six million new jobs by 2025 by stamping out corruption, improving the business climate, slashing red tape and fostering better education. It would also tweak the scorecard that most businesses must submit to measure their progress in promoting “black economic empowerment.” Wilmot James, a party leader and member of parliament, said “we would not repeal, we would reform the scorecard.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters. Led by Julius Malema, the former head of the ANC’s Youth League, the Economic Freedom Fighters want the government to take more aggressive action to redistribute wealth.

The populist message could be potent, but many analysts question whether Malema, who was arrested Dec. 19 for driving 135 miles an hour in a 75-mile-an-hour zone, is the most effective messenger for it. While championing the concerns of the poor, he has a taste for finer things. South African tax authorities found Malema owed the government $1.6 million. To cover the amount, he has sold an incomplete mansion he was building in the upscale Johannesburg suburb called Sandton, as well as a farm and various household belongings.

The party has drawn support from Dali Mpofu, a lawyer who was chief executive of the South African Broadcasting Corp. and who was close to Winnie Mandela. Mpofu, who has been campaigning in squatter camps, said “I feel that for the first time it is no longer possible to change the ANC from within the ANC.”

Agang. While Malema is pulling to the left, Mamphela Ramphele is staking out the center. A physician and co-founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement, she has also been a managing director at the World Bank and vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town. (She also gave birth out of wedlock to two children with Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness Movement icon beaten to death while in detention.)

She also has invoked Mandela, saying in a newspaper op-ed piece that he should be a reminder that “it takes leadership to pull back from the extreme reactions on both the left and right, and to hold the middle ground where most people tend to want to be.”

Polls show her party, Agang, attracting just under 2 percent of voters.

Congress of the People. In the last election, COPE won 7.4 percent of the vote, the third-largest bloc. The party is led by Mosiuoa Patrick Lekota, also known by his nickname “Terror” Lekota for his soccer prowess as a young man. Lekota, who was active in the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s and who did a stint at the Robben Island prison, became a leader of the United Democratic Front, a major anti-apartheid organization, during the 1980s and was a key defendant in the Delmas Treason Trial, the prosecution of nearly two dozen anti-apartheid activists. After apartheid ended, he became premier of the Free State province and later served as the ANC defense minister for nine years. In October 2008, after President Thabo Mbeki was ousted by ANC forces supportive of Zuma, Lekota formed his own party.

Steven Mufson covers energy and other financial news.
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