…as voter backlash is expected
By Akpo Ometan
Concern is mounting in South Africa over fears that the ruling African National Congress, ANC may lose critical seats in the forthcoming August 3 municipal polls, he Difference has learnt.
The loss which is being projected on the back of widespread voter disenchantment with the performance of the jabob Zuma-led national government is said to be more ominous given that the ruling party does not really have a history of having lost any real elections in the past.
Among other seats being speculated that the party would lose is the influential municipality of Johannesburg and pundits are already suggesting that if things are not very well handled in the aftermath of the contemplated loss, it may throw significant spaneers in the South African democracy map.
Notes Alec Hogg:
“One hopes there will be a more mature response from South Africans after August 3. Pessimists fret about a repeat of Oudtshoorn where the sitting party simply refused to yield after losing a recent election. Their concern is well placed. If politically aware Tshwane residents rioted after the ANC nominated a different candidate, imagine the chaos if the party actually loses – now more probable than possible.
Peaceful transition is the true test of democracy. RW Johnson warns us the ANC’s entire structure presumes indefinite rule. The party has little idea what to do should it lose. For the sake of all South Africans, let’s hope they start learning fast. Nobody likes a bad loser,’ the commentator remarked in a post on Bsiness News.
Hogg is not alone. According to Allistar Sparks, it can now be taken as given that the forthcoming local government election will change the face of politics in South Africa.
As he explains, rather than the present scenario of near-absolute one-party rule, a new era of deal-making will almost inevitably replace the old order of party dominance by the ANC
‘SA is going to start a new phase in its political evolution. This is because the August 3 local government elections will usher in an era of coalition governments in the country.
I make this prediction with some degree of certainty because opinion polls are indicating that no party is going to emerge with a clear majority in some of our big metro councils, as well as perhaps scores of regular town councils. That means the strongest party in these instances will have to find one or more coalition partners to gain power.
That, in turn, will change the nature of our politics. The days when the ANC could treat opposition parties with disdain as it cruised to easy victories are over.
From now on, it is going to have to seek out and negotiate with other parties to reach coalition agreements. That will require flexibility and a high degree of negotiating skills, something the ANC with its domineering attitude will not find easy.
More importantly, the ANC is going to find that when it falls short of that 50%-plus-one line, opposition parties are going to try to form coalitions of their own to seize power themselves. In other words, a process of negotiation and deal-making is going to become a dominant feature of our politics in a way it has not before.
Of course, coalition forming is not altogether new to SA. The DA gained its first foothold in significant power when it captured the Cape Town metro with a seven-party coalition in 2006. With time, some of the coalition partners merged into the DA, which then went on to win clear-cut control not only of the metro, but of the Western Cape province itself.
Since then, the DA has formed a number of coalitions in smaller municipalities. It has become quite adept at the game. But what lies ahead will be on a bigger scale. I foresee coalitions being formed in the big metros of Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), Tshwane (Pretoria) and maybe Greater Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni (East Rand) as well. That is what I mean by entering a new phase, because it could mark the beginning of an incremental change of power nationwide.
Such a possibility takes me back to a warning I often heard the late Dr Frederik van Zyl Slabbert utter, that the most perilous moment for any new-born African state was not its moment of independence, or liberation, but the moment the party of liberation first faces the prospect of defeat at the polls.
Such parties have an unfortunate tendency to believe that, because they fought the great fight for freedom, that they toiled and sweated, went to prison and suffered all the hardships and casualties of the liberation struggle, they are entitled to rule forever, like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, or until Jesus Christ comes again in the case of President Jacob Zuma.
I have seen that pathology play itself out too often for comfort. But thanks to the wisdom of our democratic founders, we have a sufficient degree of decentralised power to our nine provinces and nine metro councils (the latter being the engines of our economy) to enable political change here to take place incrementally, council by council, metro by metro, and province by province. All cushioned by taking place through the negotiated process of coalitions.
Sceptics often ask me whether I think the ANC would be willing to relinquish power if it lost a national election. My reply is that the process has already started, first Cape Town, then the Western Cape, and I have a strong sense it will move to Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, and a whole array of medium-sized towns, come August.
And once that has happened, we will all be holding our breath to see whether we emerge from the 2019 election with a coalition as national government.
Two men, in particular, are hastening the process: Julius Malema and Zuma. Malema because his EFF have emerged as a significant third political party that is stealing large numbers of votes from the ANC, thereby reducing its ability to cross the 50% line on its own. And Zuma because, well, he is simply the best recruiting officer the DA and the EFF could possibly have. The opinion polls show the man is widely despised. He comes either bottom or second-last in a series of popularity ratings run by different polling agencies. He is a major liability.
Yet, the ANC seems determined to keep him for as long as possible. The reason, of course, is because he heads up the patronage league in the party, often dubbed the “Premier League”. The key members of that group cling to him because of the benefits of position and tenderpreneurship he offers them, and he clings to them because they keep him in power and out of prison.
But that era is drawing to a close. With three substantial parties now competing in our politics, it is going to be difficult for any single one to cross that 50% line. There will be majority parties, scores of them, but even a party that gets 48% of the vote will require a coalition partner to help it over the line into government. And if it fails to do so, all the minority parties can club together to claim power with a combined 52%.
What is more, the so-called Premier League patronage is hastening the process. For what those self-centred gluttons seem not to realise is that the longer they keep Zuma as Number One, the more his seriously low personal ratings will weaken the ANC. Thus the perverse truth that the opposition parties should not pressure the ANC to dump Zuma if it does badly in these local government elections. They should rather encourage it to keep him, for that would greatly enhance their chances of being able to form a coalition to seize power in 2019.
There can be no doubt that Zuma’s popularity ratings will plunge even further in the next year or so as his inability to avoid scandal continues. He and his family are now pleading poverty, saying they are experiencing difficulty coming up with the R7.8m the Treasury has calculated to be a “reasonable share” of the nonsecurity upgrades to his Nkandla home.
Many may regard that as a pretty modest amount given that it is only 3% of the R246m the public paid for his home improvements. Yet Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, a member of the Premier League, together with his provincial executive committee, is offering to pay the money for Zuma. Nice. But wouldn’t that be the improper expenditure of more taxpayers’ money?
Then there is the small matter of the government’s decision to buy Zuma a new presidential jet for R4bn. That, as DA leader Mmusi Maimane has pointed out, is the equivalent of 16 Nkandlas. Or internships to launch 160,000 young South Africans on careers. High-flying poverty, I reckon.’