SADC politics: Liberation movements dominate

The majority of the countries in southern Africa are rallying behind the political parties that led them to independence, with few exceptions. Liberation parties such as the ANC, Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) of Namibia, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in the United Republic of Tanzania continue to dominate the political landscape in their countries. The CCM is the longest serving party, having led Tanganyika to independence as the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in December 1961, and changing its name after Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form the United Republic of Tanzania on 26 April 1964. The country holds its elections at five-year intervals and CCM has consistently won elections in both parts of the Union. In the last polls held in October and December 2005, the CCM presidential candidate, Jakaya Kikwete, romped to victory with just over 80 percent of the popular vote. Kikwete is the fourth president from CCM to lead the country. The founding president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, retired in 1985 and CCM has a well-established system for change of leadership. The next longest serving party in the region is the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which led that country to independence in 1966 and has dominated national elections ever since, easily winning the last general elections in October 2004. The BDP also has an established system for change of leadership, and the current president, Festus Mogae, is the third president from BDP; the founding president, Seretse Khama, died in 1980. In Mozambique, Frelimo has been in power since winning independence from Portugal in June 1975 following a protracted armed struggle. It has won all elections since then, including the most recent in December 2004, and President Armando Guebuza is the third president from Frelimo since independence. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been the dominant force in Angolan politics since leading the country to independence from Portugal in November 1975, following a 15-year liberation war. There are now more than 100 registered political parties in the country, including the main opposition, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), that waged a bitter 27-year civil war with the support of apartheid South Africa, the United States of America and others. Only 12 of these parties won seats in the National Assembly in last polls held during a peace window in 1992. Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF has won all five parliamentary and presidential elections held since independence from Britain in 1980 following a 14-year liberation war. This is despite allegations of electoral irregularities levelled by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The allegations have been dismissed by the country’s courts, and the polls have been approved by high-level international election observers from the region and continent, although European governments who did not send observers have continued to reject the results. Swapo is the dominant force in post-independence politics in Namibia, cruising to victory in all three polls since independence in 1990. Its presidential candidate, Hifikepunye Pohamba, won 76 percent of the ballots in the last polls held in November 2004, beating closest rival, Ben Ulenga of the Congress for Democrats, who got only 7.3 percent. Zambia and Malawi are the only countries in the region to have the opposition dislodging the independence parties, other than Lesotho where there was a coup d’etat. Zambia’s first post-independence ruling party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) led by Kenneth Kaunda, lost power to the labour-backed Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in the 1991 elections. In the case of Malawi, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of the first post-independence president, Kamuzu Banda, was defeated by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in elections in 1994. The UDF has continued to dominate Malawian politics. In South Africa, the ANC has defeated the opposition in polls at all levels since the end of apartheid in 1994. In the recent local government elections, the ANC cruised to victory after winning more than 68 percent of the votes against 13 percent for its closest rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The Inkatha Freedom Party won only 738 out of the 8,380 seats in the elections declared free and fair by the SADC election observer mission. ‘

March 2006
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