JOHANNESBURG — South Africa will hold general elections on May 7 in a democratic milestone marking 20 years since the end of white minority rule, the president said Friday, as police struggled to contain violent protests by poor residents who say the government has reneged on pledges to improve living standards.
The election will be the first since the Dec. 5 death of Nelson Mandela, a unifying figure whose election as South Africa’s first black president in 1994 lifted the hopes of many whose rights were denied during apartheid. The ruling African National Congress, the liberation movement-turned-political party that Mandela led, is favored to win the elections, but its popularity has slipped amid high unemployment and corruption scandals.
South Africa’s most populous province, Gauteng, has experienced about 50 protests over lack of services this year.
Violence in poor townships echoes the unrest when antiapartheid activists sought to make townships ungovernable during white rule decades ago.
President Jacob Zuma, who is expected to run for a second term, said the election offers a chance to build on the democracy that Mandela and others worked so hard to achieve.