The ANC does not believe that its decline in support in KwaZulu-Natal can be entirely attributed to the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma on charges of contempt of court this July.
Speaking at the Electoral Commission of SA’s national results operations centre on Wednesday, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said it was too early to conclude that KwaZulu-Natal residents were disgruntled about Zuma’s arrest.
He said, however, that it was possible that residents were unhappy about the incident.
The IFP managed to do a stellar job in convincing residents in KwaZulu-Natal to vote for it. The party had garnered 27.32% of the votes as of Wednesday afternoon. It looks set to take control five of the province’s 11 district municipalities, up from two in 2016.
The DA too made considerable strides, and has won the previously ANC-led uMngeni Local Municipality.
“I would not say it is a Jacob Zuma issue, but the comrades in KwaZulu-Natal are busy doing the analysis. We came from that period of looting and violence in [the province]; let us not forget that. That period hit people in a very bad way. So there may be people in communities who did not go out to vote because of that situation. We do not speculate and say that’s it ... but it could be one of the contributors,” said Mashatile.
Zuma did endorse the party in two public appearances, the first being when he addressed attendees at a welcome event and prayer session held after he was released on parole. The other was when he disclosed that he had voted for the governing party moments after casting his ballot in Nkandla.
He was addressing a media briefing alongside ANC deputy secretary- general Jessie Duarte, national spokesperson Pule Mabe and election campaign manager Fikile Mbalula.
While Duarte said that the local government election results had shown that the ANC has lost a substantial amount of support, she emphasised that the party fought through many campaign constraints.
“The 2021 local government elections have been among the most difficult elections we have contested. The turnout, in particular, has been disappointing, in part as a result of the objective conditions of Covid-19, the weather, [holding the] election on a Monday and logistical issues, as well as the spectre of load shedding in the week preceding.”
“However, it is in the main an unambiguous signal to the ANC from the electorate. The low voter turnout, especially in traditional ANC strongholds, communicates a clear message: The people are disappointed in the ANC and with the slow progress in fixing local government, in ensuring quality and consistent basic services, in tackling corruption and greed,” she said.
Duarte went on to say that the party had heard the complaints of the people and that it was time for them to shape up and honour the mandate they have received.
The ANC will enter coalitions on a more sceptical note as most of the partnerships that were led by the DA were characterised by Duarte as “untidy” and “messy”, and premised on gaining power as an end in itself. She said this resulted in unstable and self-serving “marriages of inconvenience”.
That has informed the ANC’s approach to prioritise agreements that further the interests of effective governance and are consistent with the principles of democracy and proportionality.
To avoid political and administrative instability, the ANC will consider partnering up with like-minded parties and will apply the principle accepted in many countries that the party that receives the most votes in a given election, should be afforded the first opportunity to form a coalition government. This would then mitigate against the scramble for power.
“On coalitions, the preliminary results indicate that we will have more hung councils than in the previous local election. This will necessitate the need for coalitions or other forms of cooperation with other political formations. This is nothing new. We have done so since 1994. The ANC’s approach to coalitions remains based on principle, not expediency, and guided by the spirit, mandate, and interests of the voters,” Duarte added.