This beautiful country of ours in less than a week goes into its 4th general election, I like 400000 like me will vote for the first time on Wednesday. An opportunity I have eagerly awaited since I first became politically conscious, back when I witnessed the extra-ordinary events that led overthrowing of then President Thabo Mbeki in 2007. Since then I have gone on to study 3 years into a law degree at the University of the Western Cape and the political fire that rages in me persuades me to write this piece. There was something about the toppling of Mbeki that gave me a sense of South Africa’s unique political landscape which I have analyzed in between handing in high school assignment and studying the Constitution. Now I feel I have a clear sense of how thing work, and unlike Gayton’s letter I really hope this piece will give you young person, a context to this election in order to make an informed choice next week Wednesday.
Let’s start with the ruling party. A lot has been said and made of the dilemma that faces the African National Congress surrounding the “N” word. What one finds fascinating is how number 1 has been, for the best part of the campaign, been able to personally duck the bullet regarding his homestead. During all the election debates the head of the ANC has not participated in even one leaving his backroom staff (particularly Gwede Mantashe at the Wits debate) to take the heat. However one must commend on how well the likes of Mantashe and Gigaba have handle this embarrassing debacle. The ANC rhetoric going into the May 7th has been “We have a good story to tell”. Is this necessarily true? South Africa has become 33% richer than 20 years ago; development in South African has seen a middle class growth to 4 million as opposed to the 350 000 in 1994. Nevertheless this is certainly not a good story economically, the majority of the population still live in abject poverty those who suffered under the old dispensation still suffer to today. What the ANC has done did not ensure economic transformation simply add an elite group of black people to the existing bousasie. This is evident in the shocking revelations at Marikana; although not proven shareholder and soon to Deputy President Cyril Ramaposa had in one way or another played a hand in the massacre of this countries people to protect his own financial interest, how different is this to what Aasad is doing in Syria. The ANC 2007 introduced new and controversial means to achieve political change, the booing of Thabo Mbeki draws resembles to those at soccer city. One has to ask whether that conference could have sparked the gradual end of the ANC. Since that conference we have seen the birth out of the ANC 2 new political parties in the EFF and COPE and a potentially 3th party if Numsa are to leave COSATU, divisions have plagued the organization, this election to be a catalyst for a change in 2019 should the ANC drop below 60%. Many veterans and loyalist believe that the ANC will maybe self-cleanse itself at the national conference in 2017 and this is only a minor hurdle. We cannot overlook the works of the Zuma administration, government institutions such as the department of health and home affairs have made significant turnaround although a lot is yet still to be done. Although other political; parties can claim to have had a massive hand in the National Development Plan it remains an ANC blue print (one of many, GEAR, RDP ect…). A solid and well constructive long term plan which if applied effectively could lead to a prosperous and bright future with all who have read it (all twenty six of you) agree on its plan for a better South Africa, therefore the ANC can claim unlike all other political parties shouting the same rhetoric that they have a plan which is solid and tested and approved.
The Democratic Alliance on the other hand have, also had a roller-coaster election season. I, at the height of the Nkadla debacle, had feared the DA would fall into the trap and not learn from their “stop Zuma” 2009 campaign focusing all their energy in acting Zuma. The DA election team must be commended on their rigorous planning for this election. They realized the growing dissatisfaction with the ANC by the middle class and then, by investing their energy in Gauteng (which I would assume has the biggest number of the middle class the country), looked to take advantage of it. Although based in Cape Town when back home one can feel a discontent of the those I engage with, however the big question is will this translate to votes on Wednesday. As much as we do not want to face the reality but our countries politics is and has been for the last 30 years a ‘politics of individuals’ and that fact has put the DA at a disadvantage in the past and in trying to address the disadvantaged they have dug themselves a bigger whole with the whole kissing shinanagans with Dr Mamphele Rampele. The DA’s rhetoric is that they have a proven track record where they govern. That is true but let us look at the Western Cape, has the DA significantly changed the lives of the disadvantaged and reversed the ills of the past? Listening to Aubrey on talk 702 a few weeks back, he had Helen Zille on open line and a white man had phoned in and had extremely racial views, he also voiced his support for the DA for looking out for ‘whites’. This for me is what the DA still struggles with how to get the ‘black vote’ without upsetting their core power base, because let’s face it we still live in a highly unequal and radicalized society.
The smaller parties in South Africa have had it tough partly because of their own doing, such as the in fighting in COPE, and some due to the high cost of being heard by the people in South Africa. What I do find repulsive is the lack of proper plans for the country, everybody wants to fight corruption and poverty, but nobody is saying how really we are going to achieve this everybody is saying the same thing. One sparking light in these elections has been the EFF partly because of the love affair Malema has enjoyed with the media over the past 6 years but also because they have come with a different and radical way of thinking and maybe this is good for our democracy. Smaller parties are hardly expected to have a massive effect on the election in exception to the EFF. Can the reach the 10% mark can the numbers we saw at the launch of their elections manifesto translate into votes. One thing they have done will in and which other small parties can learn from is finding a target group, they have targeted the young black frustrated youth which make up a huge part of the country (although the majority have not registered to vote) and so has the Patriotic Alliance (although I am very skeptical about their success) in targeting the not so much focused on colored population of the Western Cape which has a huge influence in the prospect of who runs the Western Cape.
Less than a week before the election it is quite clear that the ANC will once again win this election, however and more importantly is how much they win it by which will ultimately decide if they can retain power 2019. This will be a catalyst election one which will be of upmost importance in this history and direction of our country I am honored to par take in this watershed moment in the Republic of South Africa.