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Public sector strike dents Zuma's support

Oct 07 2010 18:33 Reuters

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Johannesburg - A lengthy strike by 1.3 million state workers caused a sharp drop in support for President Jacob Zuma, a survey said on Thursday.

More South Africans in urban areas disapprove of the Zuma government for the first time in his 18-month-old presidency, according to the poll released by TNS Research Surveys.

Analysts said Zuma risks a weak presidency for the rest of his five year term unless he can tackle worries about growing cronyism, massive unemployment and anger among poor blacks waiting for the electricity, running water and better schools promised by the government.

The nearly month-long state workers' strike closed schools, delayed treatment at hospitals and hit hard the country's poor who rely on government services.

"Since late August and early September, we were in the throes of that public servants' strike. That was quite damaging because it lasted a long time and was quite violent," said Neil Higgs, director of innovation at TNS who compiled the poll.

"One thing that we find in these surveys is that people are far more critical when it affects their personal lives."

Zuma's overall support stood at 43% for the quarter ending in September, down 15% from the previous quarter, marking the sharpest drop of any president in a TNS survey conducted every quarter over the past 15 years.

The survey also showed the sharp racial divides in South Africa that persist 16 years after the end of apartheid, with Zuma's support among blacks at 54%, while it was at 17% among whites.

The next major test for Zuma and his ruling African National Congress comes in the first half of next year when local elections are held nationwide. Any setback could deal another blow to his leadership.

The survey was conducted among 2 000 adults in the seven major urban areas and has a margin of error of under 2.5%.

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