ANC Expected To Retain Majority in South African Election; Opposition Accuses Party of Neglecting HIV/AIDS
The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, is expected to either retain or increase its majority in parliament in Wednesday's national election, the AP/Tacoma News Tribune reports. Although the Democratic Alliance -- South Africa's largest opposition party -- accused the ANC and President Thabo Mbeki of "mishandling" the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic and failing to eliminate corruption and crime, the DA is expected to finish a "distant" second in the election, according to the AP/News Tribune. There are approximately 5.3 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS, the highest number of cases in any country in the world. With the election outcome "certain," some South African leaders are concerned that interest in the democratic process is "waning," according to the AP/News Tribune. Nelson Mandela, who was South Africa's first black president, said at a recent ANC election rally, "Standing on the sidelines, failing to go to the polls, is a neglect of the democratic duty," adding, "And in our case in South Africa, it can be read to signal disregard for the hard and painful struggles that went into bringing about democracy." In Wednesday's election, South Africans will vote for a 400-member National Assembly, which then will choose a president, according to the AP/News Tribune. The 90-member National Council of Provinces, parliament's second chamber, will be chosen by the nine provincial assemblies, members of which also will be elected on Wednesday (Sylvester, AP/Tacoma News Tribune, 4/14).
Treatment Plan Roll Out
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday examined ANC's "bedrock" of support among blacks in the country, despite the "big disappointments" of high unemployment and delays in the provision of HIV/AIDS treatment. Although the government began its national treatment plan on April 1 -- only weeks before the elections -- the move "came too late to neutralize the damage and sense of betrayal among many people suffering from the illness or who lost loved ones to it," according to the Times. Some ANC members, including Johannesburg City Council Member Shirley Mofokeng, said that the timing of the rollout "was unfortunate because it looked like it was done to win votes," the Times reports (Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 4/14).
ANC Record on HIV/AIDS 'Abysmal,' Editorial Says
The "one abysmal blot on the ANC's record is AIDS," a Washington Post editorial says. Although South Africa's largest life insurance firms predicted an "AIDS catastrophe" in 1991, Mbeki "resist[ed] action against the virus," opting instead to "mus[e] self-indulgently about whether the mainstream medical consensus on AIDS might be wrong," according to the Post. "As a result, South Africa is only now coming to grips" with the epidemic, the editorial says, adding that during his expected second five-year term, Mbeki has a chance to "redeem his record" on HIV/AIDS by "rolling out [antiretroviral] treatment at an accelerated rate for those who need it and by using the promise of treatment to persuade his countrymen to be tested" for the virus. The Post concludes that the ANC must fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic "with the same determination" that it once used against apartheid (Washington Post, 4/14).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on the ANC's expected win (Beaubien, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/13). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
"The World" -- a coproduction of BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston -- on Tuesday also reported on the elections and South Africans' concerns over HIV/AIDS (Costello, "The World," PRI, 4/13). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.