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Can South Africa’s opposition break through?


Papi Mazibuko, a 50-year-old library assistant, decided it was time to switch sides and vote for the Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party in South Africa’s national election on Wednesday.

Houses along his street in Evaton, a town south of Johannesburg, have been without power for two and a half years because of a faulty transformer that the African National Congress (ANC)-led government has failed to repair.

The neighboring municipality is run by the Democratic Alliance and has a good record of providing basic utilities. So Mazibuko rallied neighbors last year for a campaign that featured Democratic leader John Steenhuisen, who was questioned by some black voters because he is white.

“We want to be served,” said Mr. Mazibuko, a member of the ANC since his teens. He added that even if “white people can do it, so be it.”

When Papi Mazibuko’s community was without electricity for more than two years, he became furious with his own party, the African National Congress.Credit…Andile Bouka

Opposition parties see this year as their best chance to break the political dominance of the African National Congress, which has handily won all six national elections since the first democratic elections 30 years ago. Political analysts say South Africa’s opposition parties have long failed to inspire voters.

However, this year many opinion polls predict the ANC will fall below 50% of the national vote. A record 51 opposition parties on the national ballot are trying to convince South Africans that the country would be better off without the ANC in power.

The choices vary: The center-right Democratic Alliance wants to dismantle economic policies that give preferential treatment to non-white South Africans, while the third largest party on the left, the Economic Freedom Fighters, advocates for an aggressive redistribution of wealth to the country’s black majority.

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