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Black South Africans grow disillusioned with ANC

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 8:42 p.m.

KHUTSONG, South Africa — The party that ended apartheid has begun to lose its appeal among black South Africans, many of whom have grown frustrated while waiting for the “better life for all” promised when the African National Congress won historic multiracial elections 18 years ago.

The disenchantment with the ANC, to be sure, has been gradually building. But it has intensified in recent weeks amid ongoing and often violent labor unrest that has spread across the nation since police killed 34 strikers at a platinum mine in August.

The ANC is facing a public outcry, accused of being corrupt, ineffective, wasteful and out of touch with the hardships faced by South Africa's impoverished masses. Even prominent anti-apartheid figures are publicly disparaging ANC leadership.

Other critics, including senior ANC leaders, say the party is divided and facing a crisis of leadership, as President Jacob Zuma battles allegations of misuse of public funds to renovate his private residence.

“Now the honeymoon is pretty much over,” said Robert Schrire, a political analyst at the University of Cape Town. “What we are seeing is that the average black South African is no longer blindly loyal to the ANC. That person feels angry and betrayed.”

When Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994, there was a burst of hope. The ANC promised sweeping social change to redress the inequalities forged under apartheid, which oppressed nonwhites through a system of racial separation enforced by harsh laws and police brutality to ensure the supremacy of South Africa's whites.

But for many black South Africans, the initial excitement has fizzled into disappointment as they struggle with high unemployment and a lack of housing, education, clean water and other services.

Despite its problems, no one is suggesting that the ANC will lose its dominance over South Africa's political landscape anytime soon. But the anger and disillusionment, if it continues to grow, could trigger more protests and violence.

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