There are two reasons why the DA and the EFF should welcome the IEC's decision to allow parties to submit their candidate lists following the recent Constitutional Court ruling, writes Thembinkosi Gcoyi and Calvin Matlou.
The decision by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to allow political parties to submit their candidate's lists following the Constitutional Court judgment on the postponement of the ballot has provided a much-needed lifeline to the African National Congress (ANC).
The decision has raised questions of political motivation and bias, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) filing papers to have the decision reviewed and set aside by the Constitutional Court. However, an argument can be made that parties such as the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) should welcome the decision by the IEC on two grounds.
On the first, it is better for democracy that voters are given a choice to vote for the ANC if they so wish, regardless of the party's incompetence in failing to file its candidates within the initially set deadline.
On the second, the ANC has never been weaker than it is right now, and parties that hope to displace it should welcome the opportunity to go head-to-head with it to test their own popularity, rather than assuming power based on the administrative bungling of the ruling party.
Large scale corruption
The ANC has been on trial in the public imagination since countless accusations of large-scale corruption were made against the party. This has considerably weakened its tenuous claim to be the only party that can further the aspirations of poor South Africans.
The loss of critical Metros during the 2016 local government elections in the cities of Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay exposed the level of discontent that many voters have towards the party and its failures to govern at the local level.
The industrial-scale corruption which characterised the early days of government's Covid-19 management efforts once more crystalised how far the party has fallen from its values of putting people first. Allegations of impropriety against senior party leaders such as former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize have reminded the electorate that the party may have reached a point of no return in its decline.
The second appearance of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry would have been another reminder to weary voters that the ANC is a troubled party.
Despite persistent talk of renewal by Ramaphosa, the party has found the process of renewing itself to be one beset by multiple challenges.
From feigning ignorance of what was happening in his own party to revealing callous disregard for good management practices by claiming there were no minutes for party deployment meetings, Ramaphosa reminded the jaded electorate that the party is all for itself. Electorate be damned.
The recent unrest, or so-called failed insurrection, would have finally driven the message home that the electorate has had it with ANC shenanigans. Even though we can all accept that the so-called uprising was a criminal enterprise, we should also concede that such conduct would have been less likely had those who undertook it felt their government cared about them. In truth, many poor black people see their leaders feeding at the trough with no regard for their poverty. The only thing they get is platitudes and condescension.
The DA is rightfully annoyed with the decision of the IEC, as the unavailability of the ANC on the ballot in important municipalities would have given the party a real shot at cementing its position as an alternative to the ANC.
A great test-run
On another level, the DA is probably keen to have an early test to see if its gamble of shifting the party to the near-far right of the political spectrum is bearing fruit. The local government elections provide a great test run and give the party enough time to fix its messaging in the run-up to the national elections in 2024.
General commentary on the party's quest to win back support from the FF+ while jettisoning any pretence to care about black voters has been very unkind to the party.
Party leader John Steenhuisen will be keen to show that the DA has arrested its electoral decline, which became apparent in the 2019 general elections, at a moment when more questions are asked of Ramaphosa and his New Dawn façade.
In the end, what is certain is that the voter will have the opportunity, sooner rather than later, to choose the candidates they want to be represented by. Had the Constitutional Court granted the IEC a postponement of the elections to 2022, communities would have had to bear longer with the lack of essential service delivery, poor governance and corruption that has become rampant in municipalities, as recently reported by the Auditor-General.
Though parties which have argued that they have not had enough time to campaign somewhat have a point, those parties should equally have some trust that communities are aware of what is happening and will make choices that are right for them.
- Thembinkosi Gcoyi is Managing Director of Frontline Africa Advisory
- Calvin Matlou is Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Frontline Africa Advisory.
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