President Zuma face critical test as South Africans vote in local polls
August 4, 2016
Image: South African President Jacob Zuma
South Africans queued in the winter cold on Wednesday to vote in local elections seen as a referendum on President Jacob Zuma's scandal-plagued leadership and an economy forecast to stagnate this year.
The African National Congress (ANC) has held sway in most local authorities since white-minority rule in Africa's most industrialised country ended 22 years ago. Any defeats could erode the party's support before a national election in 2019.
Opinion polls see a close race in the capital Pretoria, economic-hub Johannesburg and other key cities, alongside the symbolic Nelson Mandela Bay municipality named after the anti-apartheid icon.
"I'm voting because I want access to electricity and water and other services. Unemployment is rife and I think voting will help change that," said William Mahlangu, 58, a pensioner, at a polling station in Pretoria.
Outside a queue of people wearing jackets and hats to keep warm snaked to the polling station.
At Diepsloot, a shantytown north of Johannesburg, voting had not yet started as ballot boxes were still being sealed. Some voters were seen standing around a fire.
Voting was also taking place in Port Elizabeth, the capital of the closely-contested Nelson Mandela Bay municipality. Hundreds of people were standing in a winding queue in sheltering from strong winds and drizzle.
"The way the opposition parties have carried out their campaigns and the way the ANC has responded, show the vote will be a referendum on Zuma and the performance of his government on the national economy as well as the local level," BNP Paribas Securities South Africa political analyst Nic Borain said.
Zuma, who has been beset by a series of scandals, survived an impeachment vote in April after the Constitutional Court said he breached the law by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent on renovating his home.
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