The South African IEC 2019 elections will see 48 political parties partake in a fiercely contested election. The highest number of political parties ever registered for an election in the country. The latter is testament of the fragile political climate our country is in.
Fringe political parties feel bold enough to identify the coming election as an ideal opportunity to gather reluctant voters. Parties such as African Content Movement, Good and Land Party previously stood no chance of getting enough support base to qualify as a legitimate party in the running, let alone enough support base to earn a single seat in Parliament. But fast forward to the current state of affairs in 2019 and a loop-hole exists.
Many would say this is what the full scale of democracy looks like. Competitive politics often result in a marginal win for the people rather than a one-sided election often influenced by the elites. South Africans have plenty of reasons to see the glass half-full. A cut-throat political climate ensures the suppression of any potential complacency and eventual political dictatorship. In fact it is the latter point that got us here. We have seen this play out due to the overwhelming dominance the ANC commanded in the country's elections between 1994 and 2009.
The ruling party then became a victim of its own success at the peak of the country's economic prosperity in the early 2000’s. Based on gremlins recently revealed in state capture inquiries and investigative efforts. We now know that it was during the green pastoral times that the ugly claws of corruption and state capture slowly tightened their grip on state entities and the country at large. The rot of corruption, coupled by the complacency of the ruling party, have evidently carved up a growing path for opposition and fringe political parties to exploit.
The march towards political dictatorship was clear in 2004 when the ANC finally declared its political position. The affirmation towards centre-leftist social democratic policies was a first marker of many towards securing a stronghold and powerful grip of power. It is also worth noting that the youth league defectors, which went on to form the EFF core membership and ideological identity, was conceived within that 2002-2004 period of power consolidation by the ruling party. The growing leftist approach by the ANC presented the DA its opposition DNA mandate of right-wing policies. The widespread and well documented failures of the ruling party, in the past ten years, are inevitably what restored the unilateral power back to the people from the political giant.
The turning point came in the 2007 Mangaung Conference. It provided the country with a shocking revelation of deepened factionalism and the dictoral nature that the ruling party was capable of. The revolutionary movement had evolved from radical economic and social transformation to prioritizing power consolidation politics. The democratic nature of the country lead to the well documentation and exposé of the criminal elements at play in the shadows within the party. A growing culture of malice was clouding the ANC, and it took a disastrous term of presidency to bring the party back to earth and restore some modesty.
As a result opposition parties suddenly seemed more appealing than before and the shocking results of the 2016 IEC municipal elections came into fruition and gave the ruling party a wake- up call of note. Nine million voters are not registered to vote this year, about 6 million of the unregistered voters are youth according to the IEC. Millions more are registered but are purely undecided nor convinced by the top three parties, those are the votes the fringe parties are targeting.
The electorate should feel much better than the politicians, because they do not have to play “people-pleasers” for the masses, before the eighth of May elections. Recent service delivery protests, Eskom troubles, intensified media revelations of corruption and the backlash of some senior members of the ANC against media houses, are but clear symptoms of growing frustration and piling pressure the ruling party is feeling. The rise in the EFF's popularity within the black electorate means the ANC's firm base of black voters, which they rely heavily on, is no longer as steady, but rather scathing on shaky grounds. The growing leftist calls for immigration control and border protection associated with the DA is a motion that resonates with many South Africans.
Given that there has been a rise in perceived xenophobic attacks in black communities, fringe parties like the BLF and Capitalist Party of South Africa will chip away at important marginal decisive votes.
The 2019 May election stands to bring the country a new-dawn either way. The ruling party will be forced to re-arrange some aspects of their leadership after May the eighth. In the unlikely event that the ANC loses its majority, we will definitely see a coalition led ruling national government in South Africa for the first time. Given the amount of political warfare seen in Nelson Mandela Bay, City of Tshwane and Johannesburg. The frantic nature of coalition politics makes for a highly erratic, feisty and turbulent political environment. One I suspect the country is not ready for at a national scale.
The tension has reached boiling point and many top figures will continue to pull out all the stops for the votes. SA has a proud history of democracy post 1994. Our constitution and three arms of state have held well under severe pressure, more so in the last ten years. It is our democratic nature that opened the window for the wide scale exposé of state capture, and the well-publicised critical nature of the electorate disgruntlement, that brew a unified symbol of resistance. A show of strength within the people to keep government in check. 2016 was a significant marker in our democracy since 1994, a coalesced-will to bring back the power to the people was felt by all in power.
The quality of democracy in South Africa is far healthier than our African and third-world country counterparts. A marker we must maintain as a country moving forward, pass on to the youth, and hopefully look back with pride in many years to come. Either way come May 8, and democracy will rightfully prevail, that is something we can all take pride in as a nation.