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  • Supporters of Ramaphosa during an election rally ahead of the May 8th general election, in Mitchells Plain, South Africa, May 3, 2019.

    Supporters of Ramaphosa during an election rally ahead of the May 8th general election, in Mitchells Plain, South Africa, May 3, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 May 2019

South Africans will go to next polls carrying their racial divisions, distrust of politicians and disenchantment with democracy.

A few days before the next May 8 presidential elections, the polls award 59 percent of the votes to Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's current president and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party candidate. The Democratic Alliance (DA), a party traditionally associated with conservative white voters is expected to receive about 20 percent of the votes.

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During an electoral process loaded with a resurgence in racial tensions, Mmusi Maimane, who is the first Black South African to lead the DA party, has tried to climb up the polls by criticizing left-leaning policies and promising to "build a South Africa for all."

"Your vote should not simply be there to express your race," Maimane said as a form of undermining the incumbent's lead.

The historical fight against racial and political oppression, however, seems an undisputable political asset of his main opponent, Ramaphosa.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who was within Nelson Mandela's inner circle, was accused of terrorism and imprisoned in 1974 and 1976. He later led the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1985 until 1991. 

The current candidate lost the 1997 presidential elections, but came back into politics in 2012 to become South Africa's vice president in 2014, and president in January 2018.

On May 8, the presidential elections will be held within the framework of persistant racial and discriminatory undertones, and corruption.

According to data released by the Pew Research Center (PRC), 64 percent of South Africans are dissatisfied with the country's democracy, about 72 percent believe most politicians are corrupt, and over 45 percent say the national economy has worsened.

Though Ramaphosa may have the lead, but a national corruption scandal, where prosecutors say 220 million rand (US$15 million) in public money was illicitly siphoned off of an agricultural project aimed at small-scale dairy farmers, has created widespread public mistrust of the government.

Most of the non-Black population is mainly worried about unfulfilled land reform policies and fears that immigrants are taking away local jobs. ​​​​About 80 percent of them support the DA and only 27 percent favor the ANC, which is also supported by about 30 percent of those who identify as multi-ethnic.

“The Democratic Alliance, which has established itself as the main opposition party in this year’s election, garners significantly higher favorability measures among whites (80% favorable) and coloured (69%) South Africans,” the PRC states and adds that “the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have much lower overall favorability ratings. Fewer than four-in-ten South Africans have favorable views of the EFF (37%) and IFP (23%)."  ​​​​​

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