South Africa’s 5th national democratic elections went relatively peaceful, demonstrating once and again that citizens take their rightfully won voting responsibilities very seriously. The elections contestation was lively with many new political parties participating for the first time – notably EFF, AGANG and NFP. With the maturing of our democracy, comes the responsibility for citizens to elect public representatives who will live by the ethos of our founding fathers/mothers that South Africa belongs to us all and politicians are the servants of the citizens. On the 7th May 2014, South Africans voted overwhelmingly for the current ANC government to continue implementing policies of eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality. During their campaign, the ANC promised radical changes to governance and set itself high targets including the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP). Citizens are now expecting nothing less from the government to deliver on its promises.
The new political landscape for the future South Africa is starting to take shape with distinct ideological categories. The Left (represented by the EFF etc), The Centre Left (ANC etc) and the Centre Right (DA etc). The 2014 elections campaign was very intense and interesting given the above developing political scenario mixed with the many different personalities from various political parties. The ANC faced a serious challenge from the Left represented by the “new kids of the block’ EFF. This new movement is supported primarily by former ANC leftists who feel that the party has moved to the centre rights in support of the Capitalists. EFF also has support from a number of South Africans who don’t have a natural political home and are looking for an alternative to the “power drunk ANC”. From the right, the DA continued on its trade mark of campaigning for clean government by mounting a serious challenge on the governing party especially in the Gauteng province. The outcome of the 2014 elections clearly demonstrates that we now moving towards a three party political dominance.
The rest of the political parties were really never serious power contenders. From the list of new parties, the NFP is the splinter group from the IFP and they shared votes mainly in KZN. Agang SA botched marriage with the DA ended all hopes from voters who started questioning the Integrity and Trust of its founder, Dr Ramphela. With regards to other parties, COPE lost all the hope voters bestowed on them 5 years ago and nothing much can be said about many other smaller parties who will soon vacate the political radar screen.
The summation of the 2014 national elections results are as follows:
Ø The ANC lost 15 seats but maintained their majority in Parliament (249 seats)
Ø The DA gained 22 more seats and still remains the Official opposition (89 seats) including in 6 Provincial Legislatures (notably KZN where they deposed the IFP into 3rd position)
Ø The EFF gained 25 seats and are the Official opposition in 2 Provincial Legislatures
Ø The 10 smaller parties share the remaining 37 seats
What do these election results say about the future of South African politics?
The ruling party (ANC) has been in power for 20 years and they have now been shading some Parliamentary seats since 2009 (from 279 seats to currently 249 seats). This is not a major loss in the bigger scheme of things given their majority of 60% plus. The biggest loss for the ANC in 2014 elections came from Gauteng where there party lost 10% of the votes. Party strategists must be worried about these trends given that the next elections (local government) are just around the corner.
The ANC government has been embroiled in a lot of misfortunes and scandals and the increased number of service delivery protests bears all the hallmarks for a party that is in trouble. Things might not look that bad from the outside, but a lot of introspection and correction will go a long way in restoring the party’s credibility in the eyes of voters. Much can still be done in the next 5 years to demonstrate seriousness in improving service delivery and fighting corruption. The ruling party has to take tough decisions regarding the economic direction of the country that will bring prosperity to all its citizens.
The DA is still struggling to shed off its image of the “White party” and that it is protecting the interests of big business and the few privileged citizens. The party must continue developing and equipping the next generation of Black Leaders who will give the party the momentum for the quantum leap with the electorate. The unfortunate but true nature of South African politics is that people are still race conscious. In a country where Black people are a majority, one would reasonably expect the DA to be led by a credible Black person. At the end of the day, it is all about the number of votes a party gets to govern.
The new kids on the block - EFF - have entered the political scene with a storm. 25 seats for an 8 month old party preaching radical economic transformation is not a chicken feed. The rise of the Left in South Africa is going to be a big political development in the next coming years. Political commentators are closely watching the developments within COSATU and if NUMSA is to have its way, another new Left party might be in the offering soon. The rise of the Left parties will force the ANC to relook and reconsider some of its policies to curtail the next “Arab spring”.
We live in very interesting political times indeed. This is good and healthy for our growing democracy where all the different voices can be raised and heard. But the important development is the new political landscape developing where the electorates with now have a wider choice during elections given the different political ideologies pursued by the three main parties (ANC, DA and EFF). This new development is also good for the current ruling party (ANC) in that it will be forced to deliver on its mandate and not take the electorate for granted. Political competition can only be good for the deepening, strengthening and entrenchment of our democracy. We the electorate must continue to critically engage our politicians every day and hold them accountable for the promises made because our responsibility does not end on Election Day.