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Miles to go: On South African elections

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Miles to go: On South African elections

Cyril Ramaphosa, victor in South Africa’s recent presidential election and head of the African National Congress, is celebrating his win and the peaceful transition of power from his predecessor Jacob Zuma. But he must equally be aware that there is a daunting challenge that awaits him in the realm of economic reform, institutional reinvigoration and breaking from a past of political corruption that has hobbled the country’s prospects for much-needed growth. To begin with, the ANC won just under 58% of the vote, while the main opposition Democratic Alliance won about 21%, the Economic Freedom Fighters 11%, and the 45 smaller parties together won almost 11%. That is a considerable proportion of overall votes for the ANC, but nevertheless marks a disconcerting secular decline in its tally, which was as high as 69% in the 2004 national elections but slid steadily downward to almost 66% in 2009 and to 62% in 2014. The dwindling popularity of the party that swept gloriously to power in 1994 following the defeat of apartheid, has been coterminous with the rise of a corrupt political elite that indulged in what is now widely recognised as “state capture” — rent-seeking built on the marketisation of the South African state. Given that Mr. Zuma, who stepped down in 2018 in the wake of corruption scandals, allowed this culture of venality to flourish, Mr. Ramaphosa will have to apply a scalpel to the ANC itself: trim the Cabinet and oust those associated with illicit dealings. The President will also have to be deft in terms of steering the economy through choppy waters. The rate of unemployment is now at 27%. This raises the already high levels of stress on tottering public finances and social welfare programmes, which must cater to at least 17 million people. A positive step forward here would be for Mr. Ramaphosa to deliver on his promise to tackle the “public patronage” system, at the heart of which are the inefficiency ridden state-owned enterprises. — The Hindu

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