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South African elections 2024: eight graphs that help explain the problems

  • Author, Damian Zane, Dorothy Otieno and Olaniyi Adebimpe
  • Role, bbc news

South Africa, one of the richest and most influential countries on the continent, will go to the polls on May 29 amid concerns about unemployment, high crime rates and power outages.

Here, in graphics, are the big issues of this general election, the seventh since the beginning of the democratic era in 1994.

If opinion polls are correct, the elections could herald a new phase in the country’s politics.

The African National Congress (ANC) has been the dominant political force since it successfully led the fight against the white minority government and the racist legal system known as apartheid.

He won the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 and has been in power ever since.

But its vote share in general elections has been falling steadily since its peak of 70% in 2004.

Polls suggest it could fall below 50% for the first time, forcing the party to form some kind of coalition.

One of the factors that has undermined the ANC’s support is the state of the economy.

Taking the last 30 years as a whole, South Africans have, on average, become richer. Poverty levels have decreased and people generally have access to better housing and healthcare.

However, since 2011 there has been a downward trend in average incomes, making many feel less well-off and leading to accusations that the ruling party has mismanaged the economy.

However, South Africa has recently been hit by external factors such as the coronavirus pandemic and global price increases.

Looking at averages alone does not tell the full story of a country, since income and wealth are not evenly distributed across the population.

Using a measure known as the Gini coefficient, which analyzes the proportion of income received by different groups of households, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.

For example, the richest 20% of the population owns almost 70% of the income. By contrast, the poorest 40% of South Africans own only 7% of the country’s income.

One of the main drivers of inequality and the most obvious impact of economic problems can be seen in the unemployment rate, which the World Bank says is the highest in the world.

It has barely recovered from its peak during the pandemic and currently almost a third of South Africans looking for work cannot find work.

The economy has not grown at a rate that can support the numbers entering the labor market.

Unemployment has especially affected young people. More than 44% of people between 15 and 34 years old do not receive education, training or employment.

Like many African countries, South Africa has a young population: most of the country’s 62 million people are under 35 years old.

A UN report last year described joblessness as a “time bomb”, suggesting it could be a source of political instability in the future.

In their electoral programs, political parties commit to addressing the high levels of crime that have plagued the country for many years.

Statistics show that while there has been a small drop in the number of assaults in the last decade, the rates of robbery, rape and murder have barely changed.

On average, in the last three months of 2023, one person was killed in South Africa every 20 minutes. In the same period, more than 130 people were raped every day.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the level of violence as a war waged against women, but his party faces criticism for its handling of the issue.

South Africans are currently experiencing a respite from the usual power outages that have plagued the country in recent years.

The planned outages, known as load shedding, have disrupted people’s lives and hurt economic growth.

Poor maintenance, aging infrastructure, corruption and mismanagement have been blamed for failings within state power company Eskom.

About 3% of the population, some 2.4 million people, are immigrants in South Africa.

Despite the country’s economic difficulties, it remains an important attraction for people in the region and the continent as a whole.

At the same time, some foreigners, despite making up a small proportion of the population, have been accused of taking jobs from locals and blamed for high levels of crime. Waves of xenophobic violence have made many people targets of attacks.

Earlier this month, rights group Human Rights Watch said foreign nationals had been scapegoated and demonized in the election campaign, risking further xenophobic violence.

Image source, Getty Images/BBC

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