Minorities did not vote along racial lines

2014-05-18 15:00

Slap Census 2011 data on top of last week’s election results and it seems an entirely plausible claim that South Africans still vote along racial lines.

Most blacks in Dobsonville, Soweto, backed the ANC; most Indians in Chatsworth, Durban, voted DA and white-ish Waterkloof was a Helen Zille shoo-in.

But two other trends argue with the racial prism. Increasing numbers of South Africans are rejecting ethnic cocooning, and racial minorities decided en bloc to back the DA despite the party’s aggressive courting of black voters?–?or perhaps because of it.

On ethnic cocooning, isiZulu speakers don’t feel compelled to vote IFP any more just as only a few Afrikaners vote Freedom Front Plus (FF+).

The IFP’s votes halved between 2009 and 2014 to 2.4% and the largely Zulu electorate of KwaZulu-Natal now back the ANC (65%), the giver of basic services and welfare grants; or the DA (13%), which will become the official opposition there.

Look at St Faith’s School in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal, to see just how unchained voters have become. In 2009, the DA earned a single vote (0.3%). Last week’s 245 for the DA (60.6%) pushed the ANC and IFP deep into embarrassing minority-party territory.

Nationally, the DA claimed about 700?000 new black votes, making it the third-largest political home for black South Africans behind the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The ANC has yet to achieve such breakthroughs in ethnically homogeneous voting districts.

In the pale northern Cape Town suburb of Plattekloof, the DA beat the ANC 18-1, even after it again splurged on street posters in leafy suburbs and advertised in Rapport.

The rejection of the ANC by coloured voters in Western Cape solidified and has become almost complete among whites.

This is even though whites have unemployment levels of barely 6% despite bruising affirmative action laws and investment-busting employment equity targets, and are doing quite well as a group if you let the economic indicators talk.

Second, of the country’s 6.8?million first-language Afrikaans- speakers and 5.5?million whites (the two groups do overlap), only 165?000 voted for the FF+, the only party that explicitly targets Afrikaners.

Pieter Mulder’s FF+ grew its votes by 13% from a low base, while other parties, bar the DA and the United Democratic Movement, shed support. But it did not capitalise as well as Mulder had hoped on a DA torn between retaining its white and coloured base while wooing black voters.

The battle for the soul of the DA was most apparent in November when the party backed the Employment Equity Amendment Bill before reversing its position.

But while commentators predicted a drop in minority white and coloured support for this and other reasons, the party grew its support in these groups.

Consider Bobby van Jaarsveld, a top-selling Afrikaans heart-throb singer, who wrote in Beeld on polling day: “I love this country, I believe in this country, I have lots of hope for this country. So I am voting DA.

Not because they are perfect, but because they achieve things and bring change even though they’re not the governing party. I don’t agree 100% with all they do and say, but this is the only party that can kick the ANC’s ass.”

So despite?–?or because of?–?the far-from-white face of Mmusi Maimane on every DA poster in Gauteng, the party added black, coloured and white votes.

The DA’s net growth in Gauteng to 1.35?million votes on the provincial ballot now makes it the largest DA province, having just overtaken the DA-governed Western Cape.

White Afrikaners have never in these numbers voted for a party this un-white. Let’s call it pragmatism: the DA’s base voted to?be part of a party that runs a tight ship in Cape Town and Western Cape, and has its sights set on Joburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.

This can change. The DA’s inclusive message must be directed at minorities who embraced its rainbow vision. The DA is becoming more multiracial with each poll.

A reversal of the trend will take us back to voting-by-colour.

Pelser is editor of Rapport

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