JOHANNESBURG : South African President Jacob Zuma has dedicated his ANC's landslide victory in this week's elections to Nelson Mandela, 20 years to the day after the late liberation leader's inauguration. ‘We dedicate our victory to Madiba's memory, and pledge to continue taking forward his legacy and that of his peers and forebears,’ Zuma said Saturday, using Mandela's clan name. The party's 62.15 percent share of the vote meant an ‘overwhelming mandate’ for a fifth term in government since the end of white-minority rule, said Zuma, speaking publicly for the first time on the vote results.
Nostalgia for the father of the nation, who died last December, helped bring support for the ruling party in Wednesday's polls despite a series of corruption scandals, galloping unemployment and economic doldrums. Marking two decades to the day since Mandela became South Africa's first black president, Zuma said: ‘The victory also reaffirms that the ANC remains the only true hope for the majority of our people, particularly the poor and the working class.’
The results assured the ruling party 249 seats in the 400-member parliament, while main opposition the centrist Democratic Alliance's (DA) 22.23 percent gave it 89. New radical left-wing party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) came third with 6.35 percent, propelling its inflammatory leader Julius Malema into parliament. Anti-apartheid veteran Mamphela Ramphele, a former World Bank managing director, garnered two seats for her Agang party after a disappointing performance.
Over 73 percent of the 25.4 million registered voters cast their ballot. Speaking at the main election tallying centre in Pretoria before dashing to a victory rally in Johannesburg, Zuma set the tone for the incoming administration. He pledged to continue programmes to improve the delivery of basic services to millions of South Africans and roll out massive new infrastructure projects. Zuma, 72, is assured of a second five-year term despite controversies like $23 million in state-paid upgrades to his private home in Nkandla in the country's rural east.
A state watchdog in March found he had unduly benefited from the renovations. Later at the victory party he danced on stage with ANC leaders while local artists performed to the cheers of a few thousand supporters wearing the organisation's green, black and gold colours. He then triumphantly blasted critics in unusually vitriolic terms for focusing on his home upgrades. ‘Many newspapers wrote about the failures of the ANC. Opposition (parties) forgot to talk about themselves and spent their time talking about ANC in an attempt to confuse people of this country,’ said Zuma.
‘There's nothing wrong with Nkandla, there's something wrong with them!’ he said to laughs. The opposition DA's parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, unexpectedly resigned although her party's support grew, according to comments published Sunday. Mazibuko, 34, a rising star in the party, said in South Africa's Sunday Times that she would leave to study at Harvard University in the United States for a year.