Rise of black and Afrikaner nationalism the result of ANC failures

2019-05-10 11:07
Pieter Mulder and Pieter Groenwald
The Freedom Front Plus' Pieter Mulder, Pieter Groenwald and Wouter Wessels. (Photo: Jan Gerber)

The rise of the FF+ signifies the renaissance of right wing politics. This is largely a reaction to the black nationalism of the EFF and the failure of the ANC to competently implement its social democratic policies, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.

The outcomes of the 2019 elections point to some interesting developments about the political conduct of political parties and the future of our constitutional democracy. Here are some preliminary thoughts...

The DA and GOOD Party 

The departure from the DA of veteran anti-apartheid activist and skilled politician Patricia de Lille signified the end of the official opposition's consolidation strategy that began under Tony Leon.

When it initiated a fight with De Lille, the DA seemingly forgot that its growth path had been characterised by consolidation through mergers, acquisitions and alliances. By dispensing with De Lille for no cogent, if any, reason the DA effectively dispensed with its growth strategy.

The manner in which De Lille was pushed out dented the party's otherwise successful litigation-driven political strategy. The consequence was the formation of the GOOD Party which took some DA voters and repelled some potential black voters who felt De Lille was unjustly treated.

The ANC dodges catastrophe

President Cyril Ramaphosa most likely gave the ANC a huge advantage of not less than 10%. Whatever the final results, you have to subtract the advantage from the ANC's total vote to understand the catastrophic performance the ANC would have suffered in a scenario without Ramaphosa as a leader. Ramaphosa saved the ANC the pain of negotiating a national coalition government.

The DA and Ramaphosa factor 

The DA's blunders aside, Ramaphosa is in part responsible for stalling the DA's growth potential among the black middle class and diverting some white voters from the DA. While DA leaders may not be pleased that the party failed to register significant growth nationally, some DA supporters are probably happy that the ANC has won under Ramaphosa. 

Black vs Afrikaner nationalism  

The rise of the Freedom Front Plus signifies the renaissance of Afrikaner nationalism and right wing politics. This is largely a reaction to the black nationalism of the EFF and the failure of the ANC, a centre left party, to competently implement its social democratic policies.

Instead of implementing its policies properly and playing by the constitutional rules, the ANC under Jacob Zuma veered off. The consequence has been a steady decline of the ANC's support in five elections – two local government elections and three national elections, including the latest.

Nonracialism at risk

The failure of the ANC has also created the wrong impression that our constitutional framework was failing to deliver on its promise and that the rainbow nation idea was fading. In truth, grand scale corruption and policy uncertainty undermined progress. The failure has triggered attacks on the country's constitutional foundations and entrenched political populism.

Problematically, being seen to be following the trajectory of the EFF's black nationalism, the ANC made minorities feel vulnerable. Although most Afrikaners on the right of the ideological spectrum had begun to consolidate around the DA, the latter's version of liberal politics was seen as too weak to defend Afrikaners who felt vulnerable under the rhetorical onslaught of the EFF, the Black Land First and Gupta-hired Bell Pottinger.

For as long as the EFF grows, we are assured of the growth of the FF Plus as a sanctuary of Afrikaner nationalism supported by Afrikaner civil society organisations such as AfriForum. In the medium to long run this will place the constitutional project of nonracialism on a perilous path.

The challenge 

After the elections, Ramaphosa must stop the ANC's further veering off from its tradition of nonracialism and constitutionalism.

Proposed policies like expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and extreme nativism in some quarters of the ANC have given minorities a fright. Not that FF+ supporters ever voted for the ANC.

But the ANC's implementations of nonracialism served to weaken the urge among Afrikaners to retreat to narrow identity politics. The ANC under Thabo Mbeki implemented a double strategy of tackling white privilege without once suggesting whites in South Africa were lesser citizens. Mbeki pushed transformation to their dislike. But they had difficulty framing a cogent attack on him because he understood that for the underprivileged to be lifted, the privileged didn't need to be vanquished as if 1994's constitutional settlement didn't exist.

Mbeki had a sophisticated understanding of the co-existence dynamic even as he publicly challenged racists and confronted the two-nations reality. Ramaphosa can and should do even much better having witnessed the successes and pitfalls of his predecessors' strategies.

Fair or not?

Lastly, the Electoral Commission (IEC) has somehow lost institutional memory to run unquestionable elections. Although reported irregularities appear minor, they are so basic and shouldn't be taken lightly because in future they might determine whether or not a ruling party should fall. The irregularities reported also reflect the failure of political parties to scrutinise the electoral mechanics prior the election. 

Most of the complainants were always destined for a disastrous performance. But the basic mistakes make the IEC look incompetent. It would be sad for South Africa to join the list of countries whose elections outcomes are the subject of controversy and are determined by courts 

- Mkhabela is a regular columnist for News24.

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