I have always maintained that South Africa is a vibrant democracy, and the Local Government Election has confirmed that. Truly a ‘We, The People…’ moment. It has dealt a harsh blow to the ANC – the party that has delivered us from the evil of Apartheid but could not deliver the goods for voters in their respective hometowns.
Voters, particularly in urban areas [where 70% of South Africans live], have delivered an '“I’m not that into you” of historic proportions to the ANC. Nationally the ANC has only about 46% of the vote and it managed to hold on to only 2 Metros – Bloemfontein and East London. In Johannesburg it got only 34% of the votes! Well-spoken #MyPeople.
The EFF has stalled, much like an over ambitious take-off by a plane that could not sustain its thrust and had to settle for a more modest climb-out.
The DA looks better than expected if one has regard for its national slice of the cake – but that is not the actual story. If one looks at individual municipalities, there are shocking declines of 20 to 50% in voter support for the DA. It should however become the major coalition partner, or at least kingmaker, in all the metros where there is no one party with 50% of the vote. Around the country there are many municipalities where the DA will also be a major force going forward. But is has problems with the wider voter base in South Africa and will have to address that smartly. As long as black voters define the DA as racist, it cannot grow.
We see space emerge for narrow-focused parties with capable leadership like the IFP in Kwazulu-Natal and FF+ in many municipalities around South Africa. While I am not a proponent of narrow-mindedness or regional identity politics, this is South Africa and we are again finding our strength and vibrancy in our diversity. More importantly we have rejected the militancy that the EFF is trying to inject into every election and every major public issue.
RAINBOW NATION REBORN
The multi-colour results of our latest local elections, should make Bishop Tutu smile, and confirms Nelson Mandela’s ‘on the mark’ intuitive sense of a Rainbow Nation – debating & contesting, and more real THE DAY AFTER the election than before.
There are 3 other takeaways:
1. Coloured South Africans are really gatvol and parties like the Patriotic Alliance, GOOD and the Cape Coloured Congress have become major rallying points around which they can grow their influence by voting in even larger numbers for these parties in the future.
2. Herman Mashaba and his ActionSA gets the star for Newcommer of the Election. In truly spectacular fashion he has shown what competent political leadership can achieve – almost overnight. I believe the absence of the 3 identifiers the voters have given the 3 major parties [ANC = Corrupt; DA = Racist; EFF = Violence] made them believe that ActionSA has their interests at heart and has the capacity for service delivery.
3. On a local level South African voters have made a decisive turn away from a two party system and have shown that they want results, not big names, populist speeches and meaningless razzmatazz that worked well for 27 years.
THE DAY AFTER
I was travelling in the US in 1983, when news about a forthcoming movie started to dominate the news.
The Day After [a made for TV movie] dramatized the aftermath of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The movie ended with the ominous warning that “the catastrophic events you have just witnessed, are in all likelihood less severe than the destruction that would actually occur in the event of a full nuclear strike against the United States…” The Day After was watched by 100 million viewers, and remains the most watched TV movie in U.S. history.
The movie left me with a sense of how everything can change in one cataclysmic day. The day after South Africa’s local elections, I suddenly thought of this movie and somehow I felt that our political landscape is truly experiencing its ‘the day after’ moment, but in a very positive sense.
Just when the incompetence, the systemic failure and the utter lack of honest and open leadership, which has delivered us the darkness that is ESKOM, threatened to trip my main switch this week AGAIN, I could take solace in the fact that South African voters have spoken.
Voters demanded results. The ANC now seems more like a rural party – something that has happened with liberation movements elsewhere. The middle class, be they black, white, Indian or coloured, demonstrated that they share the same values as South Africans. They voted for different parties but expect them to work together in coalitions. For us.
Consider this: The ANC gets rid of Ramaphosa, or vice versa. He and his supporters then form a strategic alliance with ActionSA for the general election – and BOOM, they take more than 50% of the vote. If it happens change will happen – for the better.
Even at the danger of sounding Trumpian and corny, I am still going to say it;
We will make South Africa Great Again = SAGA