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ANALYSIS: Doing badly in local govt elections might help ANC - ISS

2016-06-22 07:17

Pretoria - If the ANC does badly in this year's local government elections, it might be a blessing for the party and the country, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said on Tuesday. 

Jakkie Cilliers, head of African Futures and Innovation at the ISS, told reporters in Pretoria that some of their projections after the election focused on two factions in the ANC: the "traditionalists" and the "reformers". 

Political analyst Steven Friedman however disagreed, saying at the briefing that the factions were those who were part of the economy's "exclusive club", and those who attached themselves to people with resources, like the Gupta family. 

Leadership vacuum

Cilliers, who was releasing the ISS documents South African scenarios 2024: Economics, governance and instability in South Africa, and the policy brief Rainbow at risk:improving South Africa's prospects, said the violent protests that erupted in Tshwane on Monday were a sign of a leadership vacuum. 

"The violence in Tshwane is a clear indication of the challenges the country faces due to an inability to deal with structural challenges and a leadership vacuum," he said. 

Large-scale protests started in parts of Tshwane on Monday, and continued on Tuesday, following the ANC's announcement that it had nominated Thoko Didiza as its mayoral candidate.

Protesting residents wanted current Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa to stay in his job.

- Election Map: See how the ANC fared in the last local elections

Cilliers said that with the August 3 local government elections, and the subsequent ANC elective conference in December 2017, the country could see itself on a new trajectory. 

He described the "traditionalists" as those who were rural, black nationalist, loyal to President Jacob Zuma, and dominated by Zulus. The "reformers" were typically urban, multi-ethnic, born-free voters with jobs. The Gauteng ANC was an example of the latter. 

If the ANC did badly in the elections, it could embolden the reformers at the party's elective conference.

"If you have reformers in charge who have a clear vision of where the country is going, South Africa could launch on a more positive trajectory," he said. 

"If the ANC does well, it could embolden the traditionalists, and they govern and gain dominance in the ANC. If this happens, this could possibly lead to a split in the ANC in 2018."

This was the worst-case scenario, and would lead to a divided nation.

The economy as an exclusive club

Friedman agreed that there was a factional divide, but it largely had to do with economic inclusivity. 

"I think that a lot of economic ills are not the result of the diagnoses [presented]: a lack of leadership, policy confusion. The fundamental realities of the SA economy have not shifted. What has not changed is the way in which the economy operates."

He said the best description of this was to picture the country in 1994 as an exclusive club for whites. In the 22 years since then, new black members had been admitted, but it was still an exclusive club. 

"The major divide hinges around whether you have been included in the market economy or not. One faction consists of people who have become part of the insider club. Therefore they have a stake in the survival in the market economy."

The other faction was made of those who were not included, but saw an opportunity to survive by attaching themselves to people and politicians with resources. This was patronage politics. 

This was a substantial element of the political violence in Tshwane, he said.

Battle of the ANC

Those who were behind the protests wanted to gain an economic advantage.

The Guptas, that "famous family from Uttar Pradesh in India" were the "loudest in patronage", he said.

"The battle is to determine whether the ANC will become a party of the urban economy or a patronage party."

Friedman brought up the axing of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene last year. 

"Clearly the removal of Mr Nene was patronage politics. He kept on saying no and was replaced by someone who would say yes," he said. 

He said within hours of Des van Rooyen's appointment as minister, an urban coalition was formed. "Marxists, Leninists and bankers agreed" that it was unacceptable. As a result, Pravin Gordhan was appointed to the post. 

Friedman said the constant stress on leadership was a cry for help, that "some superman must come and rescue us". 

"The problem is not leadership. It is the failure by all economic actors." 

He said government's real problem was not how many it could squeeze into the exclusive club, but how to get rid of it. 

Friedman said the Economic Freedom Fighters were trying to re-arrange who got what in the club.

- 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.

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