Patterns of the past continue

2014-05-12 00:00

THE ANC has won the elections.

There should be little surprise in this statement. And the pundits who have for months been speaking about the demise of ANC political hegemony can now — much like Terror Lekotha — eat their hats.

I predicted the ANC would score 65%. I was a bit out. I also figured that the DA would have much the same showing as it did in the local elections, and that the populist parties of old would flounder and the ones of new would prosper.

One did not need a crystal ball or IEC officials on the payroll to know this. This has been the pattern of the past 20 years. Elections in South Africa are predictable.

This is not to say that parties do not change, but the change is slow.

South Africa’s appetite for the new is nearly non-existent, as clearly expressed in these polls.

Except for the EFF — the party that has conveniently positioned itself on the Marxist left with a penchant for uber consumerism and capital wealth (some might call them facists) — the majority of the smaller parties have collapsed.

The UDM, Cope, ACDP, FF+, IFP and NFP all performed badly. Granted it was Zanele Magwaza-Msibi’s first attempt at the national elections, but, ultimately, these populist movements have battled to maintain momentum.

Agang SA, led by Mamphela Ramphele, was an utter disappointment, not because she lacked all forms of political survival instincts, but because the media lapped her up. She was made to be the darling of this election. It is an embarrassment for our media and shows the poor judgment of the editors who were sucked into the Mampara Ramphele magic show while ignoring other small parties who outperformed Agang SA. This party is dead and I will eat my hat if it ever improves.

In the case of the Julius Malema-led EFF, it is unlikely that it will experience any growth in 2019 unless it partners with an established workers’ union. The party, which promises a physical revolution of sorts, will find the world of governance difficult. The ANC, which has seen its type before, will break it and destroy its momentum. It will, like it did with the NFP, form alliances in which the ANC is the clear winner.

The legislature is tough but remaining politically relevant is even harder.

In South Africa, what we are learning is that while people follow leaders, they believe in institutions first.

This is significant and shows a particular maturity we can be proud of.

What this election has shown is that for all Jacob Zuma’s faults, and without any shadow of a doubt he has been South Africa’s most tarnished president who has consistently shown poor judgment, he has managed to secure an overwhelming majority for his party.

What is clear is that despite the dislike of Zuma within ANC ranks, the party showed an absolute dominance countrywide and its members put the party first, and the leader second.

This puts immense pressure on any opposition movement.

In Zuma, they saw the weakness needed to gain votes. Granted, the country was celebrating 20 years of freedom, celebrated three liberation holidays prior to the election, Nelson Mandela’s legacy was fresh, and the ANC’s delivery record was sound. All they had to do was click on auto-pilot.

For the opposition it was a disappointment.

What our political pundits will now do, in their inherent wisdom of course, is analysis whether the DA has hit a glass ceiling of sorts. But this would be unfair as the data tells a different story.

The DA has grown consistently and kept its new voters. It has made significant inroads in Gauteng. The DA is, much like the ANC, a slow old beast. It intends to claw its way to power, ward by ward, city by city, province by province.

This is admirable but it needs a cataclysmic event to propel it forward. It will always be relevant, but needs to identify who it is. The Mampara-kissing fiasco was a case in point.

But it seems we still have room for one more major player.

The question is who will it be?

It can, I believe, only come from the organised structures of the unions, and not just any union, but from the Cosatu fold.

There is a hunger for a socialist front. The EFF has found this ground to be fertile but its aggression may keep the vote away.

It is on the left — an area the ANC has vacated — that we could find significant political growth.

What is certain is that the ANC will rule for many years to come and, providing the IEC keeps its legitimacy, so the ANC should, as the people have spoken.

• Jonathan Erasmus is a reporter at The Witness.


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