South Africans took to the polls on Wednesday for parliamentary and presidential elections — but many eligible voters also stayed home as frustrations mounted over years of corruption, unemployment and empty campaign promises. President Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the African National Congress (ANC) — Nelson Mandela’s political party — hopes to hold onto power. He took over the presidency last year after forcing Jacob Zuma out over a series of a high-profile scandals.
Ramaphosa ran this year on a campaign that promised to tackle corruption, even as his own party has grappled with widespread malfeasance, which has left voters disillusioned.
In Ramaphosa’s home township of Soweto, many young people abstained from Wednesday’s vote. But Simon Mpinga, 74, who spent years working on a white-owned farm during apartheid, made the trek to the polls. “Young people don’t understand what we went through,” he said. “Life under apartheid was bad. The white people made us work and then they chased us away. You couldn’t feel that you were a man in those days.” Others see a South Africa still plagued by inequality, where opportunities are few and far between. “Saying apartheid is over is only half the truth,” said Simo Mpapa, 30.
The ANC has held power in South Africa since 1994, when citizens of all races were allowed to participate in elections for the first time and Mandela was tapped as the nation’s first black president.The ANC is expected to win a majority in this week’s election, even if it doesn’t win as much of the vote as it had before.
But twenty-five years after Mandela’s win, many feel their votes still don’t count. Youth unemployment hovers above 50 percent, and around 6 million young people didn’t register to vote in time for this election.