Indians DA’s KZN X-factor

2014-05-10 00:00

INDIAN voters have proved to be the Democratic Alliance’s election X-factor, helping to drive the party into official opposition status in KwaZulu-Natal.

As a result, the deceased Amichand Rajbansi’s Minority Front, now led by his widow, Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, took a severe knock in the traditionally Indian areas of both the eThekwini Metro and the Msunduzi Municipality to the great benefit of the DA.

“We picked up voters from the Minority Front in droves,” said DA MPL Mark Steele. “They have lost their national seat and a provincial seat. Now we have DA strongholds in both Chatsworth and Phoenix.

“We have seen the same thing happening in all the Indian areas, both in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. We are also seeing it in Port Shepstone and some of the smaller towns such as Dundee.”

“We have seen a three to six [percentage point] growth in municipalities around the province,” said Steele. “There was a 3,5 [percentage points] growth in Msunduzi and, even better, a six [percentage point] growth in the eThekwini Metro.”

Provincially the DA gained 21,89% of the vote and the MF 1,02% in eThekwini compared to 15,84% and 4,80% respectively in the 2009 elections. In Msunduzi the DA gained 16,78% against its previous 12,54% while the MF’s 2009 percentage of 0,95 dropped to 0,58.

One reason for the Indian community voting for the DA was the way the party “situated itself on the ground in their areas,” said Ashwin Desai, professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg.

“They made a close association with the Indian community with people like Jayraj Bachu. There was the perception that DA people are local people,” he said.

“The DA hold local meetings and Indians can speak and feel comfortable in these environments.”

Desai saw the vote for the DA as a “progressive move” on the part of the Indian community.

“They are typified as inward looking, insular, and now, when they move away from the MF, it would be a great shame if they get criticised for not voting for the ruling party.”

DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said his party’s performance was in tune with their electoral objective to increase their votes in non-traditional areas and become the official opposition.

“It was for this reason that we have grown tremendously in Chatsworth and Phoenix.”

MF leader Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi told Weekend Witness that the DA caused much damage to her party, already vulnerable due to its internal problems.

“Eighty percent of our traditional support went to the DA in the townships of Chatsworth and Phoenix due to door-to-door campaigns by the DA where they spread propaganda that it is of no use to vote for small parties.”

While the DA undoubtedly gained from the MF’s loss of supporters and officials prior to the elections, political analyst Protas Madlala said there were other drivers too.

He said threats from the Mazibuye African Forum, calling for exclusion of Indians from affirmative action, controversial statements by ANC branch chairperson Visvin Reddy that whingeing SA Indians should go back to India plus Communications Minister Yunus Carrim comment that “Indians should consider other professions other than medical studies” also influenced the vote.

University of KwaZulu-Natal politics lecturer Zakhele Ndlovu said the rise of the DA should be seen within the context of the DA’s aggressive campaign to penetrate its non-traditional base, especially townships, the youth and Africans.

“African parents send their children to study at former model-C schools. The language of the DA resonates well with them. It is common for students, even at UKZN, to find them wearing DA T-shirts.”

Reddy angrily reacted to suggestions that he had contributed to the swing to the DA.

“That is the worst crap I have ever heard,” he said. “The ANC distanced itself from my comments. I apologised and the ANC even suspended me, assuring the Indians they have nothing to fear.”

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