S.Africa’s Zuma dedicates election win to Mandela

South African President Jacob Zuma celebrates the African National Congress victory in the national election in Johannesburg on May 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
South African President Jacob Zuma celebrates the African National Congress victory in the national election in Johannesburg on May 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South African President Jacob Zuma Saturday 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,” Mr Zuma said, using Mr Mandela’s clan name.

The party’s 62.15 per cent share of the vote meant an “overwhelming mandate” for a fifth term in government since the end of white-minority rule, said Mr 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, Mr 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 per cent gave it 89.

New radical left-wing party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) came third with 6.35 per cent, 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 per cent 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.

Mr Zuma, 72, is assured of a second five-year term despite controversies like US$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 ANC’s support fell slightly from the 65.9 per cent it won in 2009 elections, as opposed to the DA’s improvement on its previous tally of 16.66 per cent.

The DA also strengthened its position in the Western Cape province, the only one governed by an opposition party.

The ANC’s share of the vote also plunged in economic heartland, Gauteng province, from 64 per cent to 54 per cent, where personal scandals surrounding the president have been a liability for the party.

Results trickled in last for Gauteng, which also has the highest number of voters, raising allegations of vote-rigging from the EFF and historical ANC rival the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The military deployed overnight Friday in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township and police arrested 59 people for public violence after residents burnt tyres and barricaded streets over alleged voter fraud. Police reported no casualties.

Thousands died in clashes between ANC and IFP supporters in the early 1990s during negotiations to end white-minority rule and Alexandra was one of the hotspots.

In allegations reminiscent of those dying days of apartheid, the IFP said ballot papers had been transported in a car with ANC-branding.

“There were irregularities during the voting process,” senior IFP Muzi Ntuli told AFP.

Provincial ANC spokesman Nkenke Kekana meanwhile accused the IFP of being sore losers after conceding two key districts to the ruling party.

“For the first time since 1994 the ANC managed to win those voting districts from the IFP. That is the source of the violence,” he told AFP.

Riots flared up again briefly on Saturday night and police fired teargas to disperse a small group, according to police spokesman Neville Malila.

Malema called on people in Alexandra to “accept defeat” for the sake of peace, despite the ANC using “mafia tactics to win Gauteng.”