In one of my trips to one of the African countries, I started a conversation with a waiter at the restaurant. The conversation started when I mentioned that I am from South Africa. The waiter said; “I wish that all the African nations and politicians can learn from South Africa. Especially when it comes to elections and democracy.” Right there, the pride of patriotism enveloped me and I felt proud and important as a South African.
For as a nation we have become a point of reference in the post-independence Africa. I do wish that as a nation we can see and value what we have and thus embark on a process of building a strong democracy which will remain a legacy for generations to come. Patriotism is not based on shallow pride but on the quest to be a trend setter in world politics.
Unfortunately, certain sectors embark on using narrow political analysis based on an inflated sense of self-importance whereas others embark on narrow factional analysis based on non-issues. It was unfortunate that post-elections certain individuals chose to accuse the Gauteng ANC leadership of all sorts of things.
Listening to some of the accusations one is appalled because none of those point to the political dynamics in Gauteng, but merely shallow rhetoric on internal factional party dynamics. Actually, Gauteng ANC leadership needs to be given credit for a mere fact that ANC managed to retain Gauteng even though odds were stacked against them.
The elections results in Gauteng paint a picture of a typical economic hub. It is therefore, important for us as the ANC members to understand these dynamics in order to align our strategies accordingly. Going towards the elections ANC banked on loyalty more than anything else, hence the pitch of “a good story to tell.” Was it a good strategy?
In some ways it was a good strategy, because after twenty years of democracy we had to look back and reflect, and thus reassure those whose lives are in the process of being improved. On the other side, it was not enough as the ANC needed to build confidence of those whose lives have been improved and thus have different needs and interests. In their communication during the elections the ANC failed to address the sector of the middle class.
Loyalty within party system is based on the goodwill of the electorate. We must remember that people join political parties or they vote for a certain party because that party is able to deliver and protect their interests. Interests are not static and thus bring into question the issue of loyalty. Political parties are thus seen as a vehicle or a platform for collective bargaining in pursuit of self-interests. It is therefore, important for political parties to constantly review their strategies, policies and understand the times in order to increase or retain their constituency.
The issue of the middle class has been high on the agenda. Questions have been raised as to what defines the middle class. The middle class is defined as the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business people. Gauteng as an economic hub has a large concentration of the middle class. This creates a certain cluster among the electorates with totally different needs and interests.
Within the politics system, this class seeks by all means to protect their status if not improving it. Therefore, for any political party to capture this constituency it ought to be able to speak to their needs, reassure them that their status in not under threat and to pursue some policies which speaks to their interests. Failure to do so, will see a shift in the voting patterns like we have seen with Gauteng.
Let me say that it is true that some of these people in the middle class got there because of the policies lobbied by the ANC. However, that cannot be seen as the basis for loyalty. In the previous elections, there were several things which seemed to threaten this base of the electorates. The first was the issue of the e-tolls. No matter how dismissive we want to be, this issue from the middle class perspective was a threat. It was a threat in a sense that it meant a loss of income which then threatens the lifestyle of these individuals. Secondly, the issue of Nkandla. For as much as we tip toe around it, Nkandla, to many middle class was an issue as it besmirched the concept of good stewardship with the taxpayers money. The last issue was how in many forums and platforms this base of the electorate was berated and called names.
From where I am standing these issues with the middle class and the emergence of EFF did take away some numbers from the ANC. On the other side, this is how democracy functions and the ANC should be applauded to have been a good steward of democracy for over twenty years. In Gauteng, it is high time that we review how we do politics and how we better serve this unique base of electorates. I am confident that the current administration under the ANC in Gauteng will do just that and deliver in its mandate.