FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald. Picture: Lulama Zenzile
On one hand, you have Africans who are angry over being dispossessed by apartheid and on the other you have whites, who live in fear of having their properties expropriated. You can't fix this with a non-committal disposition, writes Dimo Mariri.
Looking at the top five political parties from this year's election results, it becomes apparent that the parties with crystal clear positions are the ones that did well.
Without providing too much detail, the ideologies of the top five parties can be summed up in the following manner: The IFP stands for Zulu nationalism, the FF+ for Afrikaner nationalism and the EFF for African nationalism and socialism. On the other hand, it is not clear what the ANC stands for. The party describes itself as a broad church that harbours socialists, capitalists, the confused and everyone else alike. The DA has been described by some as the ANC-lite. While it professes to be a liberal organisation, the party often oscillates between libertarian ideals and state interventionist commitments.
The ideological postures of these parties are not without consequence. This is so because when there are fundamental issues that need to be decided on, it is their ideologies that must guide what positions they must take. For example, the most important issue in the South African political discourse for the past 10 or so years has been the “land expropriation without compensation” debate.
READ: The who, why and what of the Freedom Front Plus
The FF+ has been very clear that they are against the idea of expropriating privately owned land. They have argued that if any land has to be expropriated, it must be the land that is currently already owned by the state. It is that portion of land that the state must give to black people according to the FF+.
The EFF's position is equally clear. The EFF wants the state to expropriate all privately-owned land and put it under state custodianship. From there, the state can redistribute it rationally.
Predictably, the ANC and the DA's positions on this matter have been vague at best. One minute the DA is against expropriation of land without compensation, the next minute they say that they believe the state can use the current constitutional framework to expropriate land without compensation where it is in the public's interest. Whatever that means!
ANC caught napping
The ANC were caught napping by the EFF's call to expropriate land without compensation. That is why even though they have eventually agreed to expropriation without compensation, they have pleaded that they still need to decide on the modalities. They are not any clearer than the DA.
Due to the ambiguity in their policy positions, both the ANC and the DA's support has declined by 5% and 2% respectively. The leadership of the FF+ did not conceal the fact that they owe their party's growth to disgruntled former DA supporters who are unhappy with its lack of clarity on the land issue. They say these voters see the DA as reluctant to fight for minorities (read white) rights.
Of course, the declining support for the ANC must also be attributed to the many allegations of corruption against the party.
The IFP in all probability benefitted from former ANC members/supporters who were unhappy with how Jacob Zuma was removed from the Presidency by the ANC.
Standing on the left is the EFF, diametrically opposed to the FF+. While the FF+ seems determined to protect the (mostly ill-gotten) privileges of white South Africans from the apartheid legacy, the EFF is unambiguously determined to obliterate that privilege. Commenting on that privilege, EFF leader Julius Malema once remarked that the EFF is going to "cut the throat of whiteness!"
Yet, these are the two organisations that have experienced the most growth. The EFF has increased its parliamentary seats by 20 and the FF+ by 7 whereas the ANC and the DA lost 18 and 5 seats respectively.
Voters don't want mixed messages
What we can deduce from these results is that an increasing number of voters want parties that do not send unclear, mixed messages.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has responded to his party's decline by disparaging the EFF and the FF+'s "nationalisms". He claims they are fueling South Africa's racial polarisation.
Yet, Maimane misses the point once again. These results are indicative of something very fundamental that both the ANC and DA have glossed over for more than two decades:
South Africa is already a racially and economically polarised society. It is disingenuous to accuse the EFF, the FF+ or even the BLF for causing that.
The issue here is that on one hand, you have Africans who are justifiably angry over being dispossessed by apartheid and are desperate to totally reverse that dispossession. On the other you have white people who live in fear of having their properties expropriated. That is the issue. And you can't fix it through the DA's flip-flopping or the ANC's non-committal disposition.
If this trend is anything to go by, one must be excused to venture that the DA has reached its growth ceiling (unless it re-invents itself) and that the ANC will continue shedding support to the EFF.
The basis for such a claim is that the EFF attracts younger black South Africans. These are people who don't feel any debt towards the ANC, unlike their parents who may believe that they owe their liberation from apartheid to the ANC.
These younger South Africans are asking questions that the EFF seeks to answer. They are asking why does unemployment affect mostly black people? Why, even when they are professionals, do black people continue to experience racism and discrimination in the corporate sector?
Young voters are impatient
Why do black people continue to live in undeveloped areas? Why are there no industries where black people reside? The ANC answers these questions by pointing a finger at apartheid and asking for more patience. While this answer may suffice for the older generations, the younger generation is impatient. It does not make sense for them to continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water on their native land.
It is that feeling of disenfranchisement among young black people that will continue to inform the EFF's growth. The FF+'s growth is going to halt very fast simply because they appeal to a racial minority.
- Mariri is a third time South African voter who votes for the EFF.
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