Confessions of a 'floating voter'

2019-05-03 06:00
democratic alliance,south africa
Mmusi Maimane during the Democratic Alliance (DA) manifesto launch at the Rand Stadium on February 23, 2019 in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images, Netwerk, Deaan Vivier)

The thought of a Parliament with the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Andile Mngxitama and Mzwanele Manyi leading their own parties makes me chuckle, but in a democracy, anything is possible, writes Tshidi Madia.

I think I have the support of many South Africans when I say, I am confused. I cannot relate to anyone in the political sphere at the moment and this is where many South Africans stand too.

Speaking to analyst Prof David Everatt from the Wits School of Governance, he noted that just over half of Gauteng voters are "floating voters". As a Gauteng resident, that is exactly where I fall, and I don't see anyone around me who is loyal to anyone.

What I have seen are people who were once loyal to a party, who have now distanced themselves from that party. People who were once traditionally United Democratic Front supporters, for example, are now saying they can't get behind Bantu Holomisa.

Another major example are people who want to vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) but, at the same time, are hoping that this vote is not what gives the party the edge to be in charge. Instead allowing them to continue to put pressure on the ANC to account.

Talking stats

In my career, I can't remember seeing so many white people coming out to show their support for Cyril Ramaphosa; people who fight their hatred for the ANC and declare they they're voting for the ANC again.

This is a man that both a young black majority and white people can relate to and it is telling of what Ramaphosa is gunning for. It is something very much of the Mandela era where different spheres of society connected with the then incumbent.

While this could mean that the ANC will do well on a national scale, coming out of elections with the majority vote, the problem lies in that there is not one ANC, there are many ANCs within one. You have one grouping of the ANC who is desperate for the partfy to have a reduced majority.

In this regard it would serve Ramaphosa well to stay away from anything Zuma-related if he wants to do better than Zuma did in previous elections.

Former president Thabo Mbeki has also come out to campaign for the ANC – a first since his ousting. He has begged South Africans to get behind Ramaphosa. This could give the ANC a few more votes as Mbeki is still loved by many.

The stalwart and others have reiterated that the ANC needs to win a two-thirds majority to fix the country, but South Africans have learned the hard way that no party deserves such a majority to take advantage of.

This is why the ruling party will never go back to a two-thirds majority, but will regress to their death. The ANC has been on a decline for a long time and now their stronghold in rural areas is also under threat with smaller parties that speak directly to rural voters eating at the party's influence.

Whether the party is on a decline to becoming one of these rural parties or to a complete death, Ramaphosa's presence slows this down.

EFF: power or persuasion?

The expected growth of the EFF, based on poll predictions, feels guaranteed. The EFF could very well and even double its following.

As the party that has positioned themselves in the media as the underdog, the EFF are anything but. This is the party that played the kingmaker in 2016 and this is where they would like to be. I don't think they would like to govern but rather be in a position where they can call the shots behind the scenes.

While the power of the EFF to put pressure on the ruling party is evident, the EFF has had to use creative ways to appeal to people without the money or machinery that the DA or ANC are equipped with. Unlike the EFF, the two parties have massive campaign machines with the ability to reach pretty much every corner in the country.

DA shedding voters

Despite this, the DA needs to worry.

There is currently less faith in leader Mmusi Maimane than there was in Helen Zille and the concern is that he will not be able to substantially grow the party within the black vote as the DA envisioned.

Under Zille, despite my apprehension towards her, the DA grew in leaps and her track record cannot be denied. Maimane hasn't shown himself to have this same capacity and the main concern is what happens to him after elections. I have asked him this question several times, only to be met with sidestepping and avoidance – perhaps an indication of uncertainty.

On the other hand, the impact of the Freedom Front Plus on the DA has caused the DA to shed white voters, who are leaving the party for FF+. This could be one of the reasons the party brought out the likes of Tony Leon to do some serious damage control. However, it is doubtful that this will work. The DA has suffered with the issue of reaching a ceiling when it comes to white voters and they will need more than a pretty face to prevent this.

Consequently, most polls outside of the DA's own poll see a lackluster performance from the party and where the DA is seen to grow, it is only by a few notches.

Democracy in action

It would be fascinating to see how these parties, upon election into Parliament, define themselves in that space and how they relate to other parties.

Without a track record behind them it's hard to tell whether they all have the interest of the large disadvantaged black population at heart and this scares me slightly.

The thought of a Parliament with the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Andile Mngxitama and Mzwanele Manyi leading their own parties makes me chuckle, but in a democracy, anything is possible.

If these parties, following suit from the EFF, aim to put more pressure on the ruling party to account for their actions then our democracy can thrive.

There is no question that some of these smaller parties will make it into Parliament and this will contribute to a well-rounded democracy.

- Tshidi Madia is a senior politics reporter at News24.

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