Max du Preez

Local elections 'a serious test for stability'

2016-08-02 07:39

Why SA politicians can't get enough of apartheid

2016-08-01 23:45

Cherrel Africa says negative campaigning is common in the last lap of campaigning before elections.WATCH

Max du Preez

Wednesday’s election could either reassure us that our democracy is still in fairly good health and our stability strong enough for now, or it could quickly drag us further down a spiral of regression.

The political temperature has not been this high since 1994. Twenty election candidates have been murdered and hundreds of millions of rands lost through damage to property during political protests.

Politicians – and our president – are using pre-election rhetoric of a kind we’re not used to.

The main reason is that tomorrow’s election is the prelude to the mother of all elections in 2019. More is at stake than merely the number of wards or councils won or lost.

The ANC knows that if current trends continue and it gets less than 60% of the electoral support, there is a realistic chance that it could less than 50% of the vote in 2019.

The EFF realises that if it can’t at least double its support of six percent in the 2014 general election, South Africans would not take it as seriously as they had until now.

Possibility of violence

This situation creates the possibility that some ANC elements could resort to violence if the party were to lose certain wards, towns or metros, and that EFF elements could do it if it does badly in places where it boasted that it would win. We could have a situation for the first time in our post-apartheid history where a political party refuses to accept the validity of election results.

If none of this happens and there is little or no violence on Election Day and the days immediately after the results are out, we South Africans would rightly start feeling a lot more positive about the years ahead and about what 2019 could bring us.

We’ll feel even more positive if the coalitions between political parties we’re likely to see governing several towns and cities actually last and work well. But can the DA and EFF or the DA and the ANC really manage a local council together without trying to destroy each other?

If the ANC doesn’t get an outright majority in2019, the whole country will have to be governed by a coalition. That could mean a serious test for stability and effective government.

We should hope that the crude race politics that we’ve witnessed the last few weeks, especially from the ANC, soften significantly in the years leading up to 2019.

In my view, the political leader that has done more than most to achieve this is DA leader Mmusi Maimane. I think he has done well during this campaign, shown a lot of skill and gravitas and has established himself above any suspicions as the true leader of the second biggest party in the country. Every time I hear Jacob Zuma or Jesse Duarte call Maimane a stooge or a front for whites or an Uncle Tom, I realise that they know this too.

It is likely that quite a lot more black South Africans are going to vote for the DA tomorrow than in any previous election. That is why Maimane has become the ANC’s prime target, more so than Julius Malema.

Party loyalty

It is important for our stability and our democratic development that voters increasingly in the years ahead give their loyalty to a party because of its principles, track record and policies, rather than because of history or ethnic identity.

It is a universal political reality that a strong centre, a solid middle ground is a precondition for sustained stability and progress.

I hope that the bulk of the supporters of the ANC, of the DA and parties such as Cope and the UDM will gradually start realising that they really form the centre of South African politics and should eventually be in one strong party or coalition that would govern South Africa in the years after 2019.

I hope the hard-core socialists and racial militants in the ANC will realise in time to come that they actually belong with the EFF or the Numsa grouping on the left, and that AfriForum supporters realise that they don’t belong in the DA, but should rather join the Freedom Front Plus or a new rightwing political party.


- Find everything you need to know about the 2016 Local Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections, or download the app for iOS and Android.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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