Cosatu could be the key

2013-08-28 00:00

JULIUS Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party looks set to attract a possible 26% of young South Africans in the coming 2014 elections, while the share of the national vote for the ruling African National Congress could sink to 56%.

This is according to two surveys done last week by market-research firm Pondering Panda and financial-advisory firm Nomura.

I am not a fan of pre-election surveys or pundits, but I am afraid I think there could be some truth in these surveys. And my bet is that many surveys that will follow these will spell nothing but disaster for the ruling party.

The truth is that the ANC has no one to blame but itself. It has become too comfortable and has forgotten about the people who put it in power. And the recent litany of scandals — from the Guptas to Nkandla — has not done the organisation any good.

The poor are also tired of promises that are recycled every five years. The poor cannot be fooled forever, as proven in the surveys, and this will show at the polls next year.

But one could say that these problems have been there before, and still the ANC won the elections.

True. But the party was not as divided as it is now, and it had all hands on deck during its campaigns.

In the previous years, the party had a rather more united National Executive Committee, and it had the most militant and robust ANC Youth League under the leadership of Malema and Fikile Mbalula. And at that time, the likes of Mbalula were the foot soldiers of the movement. They threw everything into the election campaigns and secured the biggest youth vote the ANC has received yet. Mbalula has now been relegated and doesn’t even feature in the party’s National Executive Committee.

And to top it all, the ANC previously had a fairly united Cosatu to rely on in terms of people and campaigning resources. The trade-union movement is now a former shadow of itself. Knives are out for the secretary general, Zwelinzima Vavi, following a sex scandal. Many believe those knives were supplied courtesy of the SACP leaders, who are accused of trying to take over the workers’ movement after failing to appeal on their own. And the biggest casualty in this Cosatu war will be the ANC. This will show by the rejection the party will suffer at the polls next year.

The leaders of the ANC are oblivious to the extent of the damage the Cosatu conflict will have on the party. They let it slide when signs started to show. Instead of intervening like a mother would when her children fight, party officials took sides.

“The reality of the matter is that they are trying to draw us into this matter. We don’t want to be drawn into that mud,” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said.

Let’s remind Mantashe that the water in the pond was clear just after Polokwane, and ANC leaders, himself included, helped create the “mud”.

The factions within Cosatu were created by the ANC, by its sidelining of those who don’t agree with its anti-poor policies, including the e-tolls and labour brokers. And it rewarded those “yes men”, such as Blade Nzimande, by giving them lucrative parliamentary posts, thus weakening the workers’ leadership.

Mantashe should know that the ANC cannot afford to go into next year’s election with a divided Cosatu. The ANC has already suffered major setbacks, including the revolting branches in North West, the Eastern Cape, and Limpopo, and its ANCYL is almost non-existent after several of its branches were disbanded and its leadership sacked.

Incidents that happened on the ANC’s watch will be the deciding factors, and have surely also influenced the surveys cited. The death of 44 miners in Marikana will prove to be costly for the ANC, especially in the Eastern Cape. Already the Cosatu-affiliated Num has lost membership as an aftermath of Marikana, due to its alliance with the ANC.

The Guptagate and Nkandla scandals have left many people worried about the prospects of another five years of a Zuma presidency.

The party doesn’t have Malema, who single-handedly ensured that almost half of the voters who returned the party to power were the youth.

So, its only hope is Cosatu, and it will take a miracle for the ANC to fix that house and restore trust among comrades in time for the polls. What we know is that those angered by Vavi’s removal will definitely not campaign for the ANC, the leaders of which they blame for his problems. The question is, who will they vote for? I am afraid the numbers in the two surveys don’t lie. And with time running out, and daggers still out within Cosatu House, it will be difficult for the ANC to reverse the trend.

• Mangena waga Makgoba is a communicator and former journalist.

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