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ANC's 15-year record is mixed

Ruling party has delivered houses, grants, but many South Africans are still waiting for basic services

THEMB’ELIHLE, South Africa — The African National Congress has ruled South Africa’s government since the end of apartheid in 1994 and is expected to sweep Wednesday’s national elections with overwhelming support from black voters.

But one vote the ANC won’t get is that of Mkhululi Zulu.

The 35-year-old resident of this squatter camp 20 miles southwest of Johannesburg said that the ANC has pledged much but delivered little to the 20,000 people of Themb’elihle. Most residents live in makeshift houses — unbearably hot in the summer and painfully cold in the winter — with no electricity and no sewage system. Water taps have been recently installed, but only after residents paid for the installation themselves.

What is worse, Zulu said, is that the local government is pushing to evict Themb’elihle’s population from land it has occupied for 20 years.

“You are voting today,” Zulu said, “but tomorrow you will be forcibly removed from this area.”

When the ANC won the first election after the end of apartheid, it inherited a set of daunting challenges. The previous governments had created a society of massive inequalities where the black majority lacked everything from proper education and decent job opportunities to freedom of movement. The former liberation movement had to address the plight of South Africa’s black population while at the same time dissuading the wealthier white residents from emigrating en masse.

Over the past 15 years, the ANC-led government has achieved much. For the most part, white South Africans have stayed put and play a major role in the country’s economy. A number of pro-business policies pushed by former president Thabo Mbeki have attracted scores of foreign investors to Africa’s largest economy and led to years of sustained economic growth.

The ANC has also devoted enormous attention and resources to the needs of the poor and has achieved substantial success in delivering basic services and improving the quality of those services.