Decline in ANC's electoral support is good for SA

2016-08-05 00:26

While the ANC may still be leading nationally, the decline in its electoral support in urban areas is good for our beloved South Africa.

If you had asked President Mandela or President Mbeki whether the ANC is facing an electoral challenge from the opposition, their reply would be met with laughter followed by a simple no. But President Zuma cannot, although he loves giggling, look at the election results and laugh when faced with such a question.

For the first time ever,  the ANC is struggling to retain control of Johannesburg,  Pretoria and Port Elizabeth with an outright majority. An outcome none of the former ANC Presidents could've predicted while in office.

There are many theories and factors that can be used to explain this. The ANC has been struggling to maintain or increase its electoral support in the more developed cities in recent years. Partly because both the poor (ANC's major constituency), are increasingly becoming impatient with what they see and experience as slow service delivery. Protests?

The middle-class too is impatient with the ANC's performance in government and has long been withdrawing their electoral support for the ANC. The ANC's misfortunes didn't happen overnight. Remember e-tolls which arguably had an influence in the 2011 and 2014 election results in Gauteng?

The ANC'S declining electoral support started showing in 2009 when President Zuma was elected into office. He managed to increase the party’s support in his home province KwaZulu Natal. A small decline in the party’s share of seats in parliament, largely owed to the formation of one of the ANC's many  breakaway parties, COPE. A COPE party that hasn't been coping since its first elections.

There was also something happening in the Great Cape of Good Hope. In 2006, prior to Zuma's election as ANC President, the DA, with the aid of smaller opposition parties,  took control of the Cape Town metro away from the ANC which had secured the metro through a merge with the New National Party. Otherwise the ANC had never won elections in Cape Town or the Western Cape province with an outright majority.

The DA used it's control of Cape Town to showcase how government is supposed to work. They cleaned up the broken bureaucracy. Directors and other senior managers who weren't even qualified to hold the positions they held were shown the door even if it meant giving them golden handshakes. Internal control systems and other administrative systems were overhauled. Billions owed to council were collected to be used to fund free basic services for the 50%+ of Cape Town's residents who receive municipal services at no charge.

The infrastructure that had been neglected was upgraded and is now managed better. Remember the new firefighting equipment bought in the first few years of DA taking council?  I marvelled as I watched a contractor redo large parts of busy Bangiso Drive in Khayelitsha within 2 days.  Contract management is a thing.  The contractor dug out what was left of the road (had too many potholes) and we walked on a new road the following day. Many informal settlements that had no municipal services received them as per national housing norms. Don't remind me about open toilets  ndiyakucela torho.

This was a city working for its residents. And the residents saw this and gave the DA control of the Western Cape with an outright majority in 2009 when President Zuma promised to uphold, respect and defend the constitution which he was found by the constitutional court to have violated recently. The ANC's electoral fortunes sank even further in the Cape and instead of the ANC regrouping so as to fight back, they launched a campaign to make Cape Town ungovernable through protests and vandalism. Cape Town voters were then seeing an ANC intent on destroying while the DA appeared as the mother Teresa of Cape politics trying to deliver the better life the ANC had promised and forgot/neglected to deliver when they had the power to do so.

With the control of the Western Cape in the DA's hands in 2009,  many looked to the DA to improve the lives of the poor even more since they now ran both the Cape Town metro and the Western Cape province.  And they did improve things.  In education they arrested and reversed a 6 year decline on the matric pass rates. Provided more support for underprivileged schools so they can improve results and they indeed improved their results with more and more matriculants qualifying for post-school education. And new schools were built,  3 of them in one of the many housing projects I had worked on.

In housing, the DA led government inherited numerous housing projects that had been paralysed by ANC government corruption in the province and formed part of the N2 Gateway Housing Project. Thubelisha homes who had managed the projects went bankrupt. Amongst reasons for bankruptcy was the improper or unlawful awarding of tenders.  So we had land, had built roads and foundations for the houses but ran out of money to buy bricks, cement and pay for other service providers. Bayidla yaphela imali abarhwaphilizi! There was nothing left to steal.

Some of these projects remained under construction for over 10 years because of the corruption. In Khayelitsha the then ANC and NNP run Cape had paid a contractor for Matshezi's RDP house but she continued to live in a shack on the plot where the house was to be built. With a lot of hard work,  the DA run Cape fixed all of these projects and Matshezi with thousands of other poor citizens have homes today. The housing waiting list in Cape Town had around 400 thousand people but today that number fluctuates between 280 000- 320 000 as people are taken off the list on receipt of a house and new applications are received.

Similar improvements  in other departments such as health can be observed.  Apart from building new schools in the housing projects,  a new clinic was built in Delft to add to the 2 existing clinics in the area. 1 with a 24 hour emergency unit.  Also new hospitals were built. Not that the ANC doesn't do these things.  The problem with the ANC,  and they will admit this,  is that they do so with rampant waste of public money and corruption.  This is what sets them apart from the DA in government. Managing public money in accordance with the law has proved difficult especially in municipalities.

The DA pushed this Cape Town story, won the Western Cape with an increased majority in 2014.  Interesting results happening elsewhere in the country in 2014.  The EFF was formed in 2012,  another breakaway party from the ANC. While they didn't hurt the ANC much nationally,  they helped to significantly reduce its majority in Gauteng. The ANC went from 64% in 2009 to 53.59% in 2014.  The significant drop in ANC electoral support was more pronounced in Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria where more than half of total votes cast went to opposition parties.

The controversial tolling system on public roads,  formation of the EFF,  President Zuma's many scandals, poor performance in government, corruption,  high unemployment and the DA's growing electoral support meant that the ANC had a hill to climb in Gauteng. But they were unshaken since they launched the #Asinavalo (we are not afraid) campaign. It would appear they had reason to be afraid since the DA held its biggest protests in Gauteng, even the DA's biggest rally in history was held at a packed stadium in Gauteng.  And so the election results show a declining ANC.  As the DA's Maliviwe Mqamelo put it,  the ANC is going from liberation movement,  governing party, to a rural party since its biggest losses are in urban areas.

But is that truly how the ANC story ends?  If they weren't so arrogant and insulting to black DA supporters, I'd say it isn't. Recovery was possible before the elections. If the ANC had recalled President Zuma, they may have had a chance of retaining the urban vote. Now they must start talking to smaller parties about forming coalitions since it appears that they haven't secured outright majorities in hung councils including  Johannesburg,  Pretoria,  Ekurhululeni,  Mogale City and Port Elizabeth. Who would've thought that Mandela's glorified liberation movement would invoke the name of Jesus Christ, and ancestors in an attempt to scare voters? Even if the ANC manages to hang on to power with a coalition,  the damage has already been done and Gauteng is the next province that will fall to the hands of the opposition come 2019. The story continues. The ANC is in decline. The opposition is growing. And that is great news for a democracy where elections were once believed to be nothing more than a racial census.

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