Five crucial elections to watch in Sadc region Five Sadc countries, among them Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana, will go to the polls this year with Namibia also electing the successor to the late President Hage Geingob (extreme right) who passed away earlier this month.

Ranga Mataire-Group Political Editor

Five crucial elections are scheduled this year in the Southern African region.

South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and Mauritius will be holding elections to elect national assembly members and a president to lead their respective countries.

It is in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia where eyes would be most focused given the political dynamics obtaining in the four countries.

In South Africa, the ruling ANC faces an emergence of a mixture of a plethora of anti-liberation political parties and others claiming to be leftists.

A new kid on the bloc, Rise Mzansi, has attracted the ire of other political players who accuse the party of being bankrolled by foreign capital.

Leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, accused Rise Mzansi of being a front for foreign interests.

At a press briefing last week, Malema challenged journalists to dig-deeper into the funding of the new opposition party.

“There is a party called Rise, with posters everywhere. You guys must ask where they are getting their money. We got it on good authority that they are foreign funded,” said Malema. It is not yet clear which foreign powers are behind Rise Mzansi.

Another new kid on the political arena is the uMkhonto weSizwe party, made up of uMkhonto weSizwe veterans, that participated in the anti-apartheid struggle under ANC.

The newly launched uMkhonto weSizwe party is arguably one of the most talked about developments in the run-up to the 2024 elections after it was publicly endorsed by former president Jacob Zuma in December last year. 

It is not yet clear who is its leader, but it appears the party wants to cash in on the historical lineage of uMkhonto weSizwe veterans with the ruling ANC.

Other major political parties to contest the elections include the EFF led by Julius Malema, the Democratic Alliance (DA) led by John Steenhuisen, the Inkatha Freedom Party (Velenkosini Hlabisa), Freedom Front Plus (Pieter Groenewald), African Christian Democratic Party, United Democratic Movement (UDM) led by Bantu Holomisa, the Congress of the People (Mosiuoa Lekota) and the Pan-Afrianist Congress of Azania led by Mzwanele Nyhontso.

The ruling ANC is expected to triumph, but many plaudits believe its majority in the National Assembly might be wilted. There is so much interest in the South African elections following its historical lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which placed the country on international spotlight.

In Mozambique, the ruling Frelimo party is likely to face a familiar political foe in the form of Renamo. Frelimo has dominated Mozambique politics since the return of multiparty elections in 1994, following the devastating 15-year civil war with Renamo. 

As Renamo transformed itself into a political party, it gained 45 and 47 percent of parliamentary seats in the 1994 and 1999 elections, respectively, before seeing this drop to 20 percent by 2009.

With the presence of terrorist groups in the Cabo Delgado province threatening the peace and security in that country, many wait to see how the conflict will impact on the impending elections.

Just as in South Africa and Mozambique, the same is expected in Namibia whose elections are expected in November. 

The revolutionary Swapo party is likely to emerge the winner. The country will be electing a new president following the death in office of President Hage Geingob, who was to step down after his second and final constitutionally mandated term in November.

Swapo’s presidential candidate is likely to be the current vice president, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who will be the party’s first female presidential runner. Should she be elected in November, the 71-year-old politician would become the country’s first female president.

In 90 days, SWAPO will hold an extraordinary congress to vote for a new person to lead the party from the late President Hage Geingob. 

Madam Nandi-Ndaitwah has a chance of taking over the leadership of SWAPO.

Madam Nandi-Ndaitwah will face off with opposition leader Panduleni Itula of the Independent Patriots for Change party.

In the last 2019 election, Itula got 30 percent of the votes, the highest opposition result in a presidential election. Interestingly, three of the six candidates expected to draw the most votes are women.

Namibia’s opposition political parties, many of which are spin-offs from Swapo, remain relatively weak and are unlikely to upset the governing party. 

Just like Zimbabwe, opposition parties enjoy most of their support in urban areas especially from “born frees”, voters born after independence in 1990.

The president is elected using the two-round system; if no candidate receives more than 50 percent in the first round of voting, a run-off is held. 

No previous presidential votes in Namibia have gone to a second round. 

The 104 members of the National Assembly consists of 96 elected members and eight (non-voting) members appointed by the President.

The 96 elected members are elected by closed list proportional representation from 14 multi-member constituencies based on the regions. Seats are allocated using the largest remainder method.

In Botswana, elections scheduled for October are shaping up and are considered the most competitive in the nation’s history. 

Long regarded as one of Africa’s most stable and longest standing multiparty democracies, Botswana’s president is indirectly elected by the National Assembly for up to two 5-year terms.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi is seeking re-election for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has been in power since Botswana’s first post-independence elections in 1969.

The opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, formed in the lead-up to the 2019 elections and led by Duma Boko is the main challenger.

Historically weak and fragmented, the opposition in Botswana has in the past posed little threat to the ruling BDP. 

However, since coming together under UDC, the opposition has its confidence high following its good showing in the 2022 by-elections. Many analysts predict a win for BDP with the opposition getting a fair share of the votes.

The fourth country in the SADC region to head for polls this year in November.

No changes are anticipated in the country, currently being governed by the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), which will be seeking to retain its majority and ensure Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth a new 5-year term. 

But the MSM will face stiff competition from the Labour Party and the Mauritian Militant Movement which will respectively be vying for the country’s 70-seat National Assembly under Mauritius’ parliamentary democracy. 

Power has interchanged between the three parties over the years, though the MSM has won the past two elections and led the government since 2009.

Mauritius is considered one of Africa’s strongest democracies. Nearly 90 percent of Mauritians voted in the 2019 general elections.

Politics is dominated by two families’ dynasties – the Ramgoolams (linked to the Labour Party) and the Jugnauths (associated with the MSM).

Of the four countries, it is in South Africa and Botswana where much of the attention will be focused on given the political dynamics currently outplaying in the two countries.

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