What the 2014 SA Polls Tell Us

2014-06-11 07:28

The recently held elections were held against the promise of new trends. One of these was the expectation of an catalytic impact of the first vote by young people born in and after 1994, the so-called the born frees. It was expected that they would usher in a new template of politics not constrained by the strictures of the past. They were burdened with an expectation of ushering our politics into what could be called liberation and truly post-apartheid era. The question is what came of this promise and expectation?

South Africa had its fifth general elections on 7 May 2014, which was unique in many ways. First, it marked the 20th year of the post-1994 democracy, an indication of the maturity of this young democracy. If there had been doubts about the possibility that the new democracy would take root enough to sustain itself through credible institutions, a conducive political culture, active citizenship and effective leadership, enough has happened in the past 20 years including the stiff testing of accountability institutions like the public protector, parliament, the justice system and human rights commission to demonstrate maturity of democracy. The successful elections in May 2014 demonstrated further this consolidation.

The second was the emergence of new actors that energised political contests. While this is not new because in 1999 and 2009 respectively saw the rise of break-away parties born out of tensions within the governing ANC as well as the rejuvenation of the main opposition party, the DA, the emergence of a party to the left of the ANC and one that galvanised the youth which is the fastest growing segment of society. The EFF came out of the expulsion of the ANC's vibrant and militant youth leader, Julius Malema, and thus was able to quickly captivate the public with intrigue and energy, growing fast to become a challenge to both the ANC and the DA in all nine provinces.

Indeed, the EFF became the third biggest party in the national parliament with votes just short of 7% and the second biggest party in Limpopo, North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. It became the third biggest party in Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape in the process dislodging the DA and COPE. It is the fourth biggest party in Kwazulu-Natal where the National Freedom Party (a break-away from the Inkatha Freedom Front -IFP) dislodged the IFP and fell just short of eclipsing the DA, which came second to the ANC.

The third reason the elections were special is that it was the first elections for those born just as apartheid was being formally ended, some of them were actually born after the installation of a democratic government in 1994. It was the opportunity for those who had seen very little of the horrible colonial and apartheid past to contribute to the process of break away from this past through their exercise of the right to vote.

South Africa had a chance to observe how the so-called "born free" would respond to the polls and the political discourses that surround it. It was expected by those who erroneously assumed that these young people were untainted or unaffected by apartheid that they would vote without the strictures of past divisions - the division between those who fought apartheid and those who wittingly or unwittingly supported apartheid from which they derived their power and privilege.

It was expected that they would give signals to what post-liberation ideology and politics would mean. For a while now, there has been calls for an emergence of the so-called post-liberation ideology and politics on the basis of the observation that the South African politics after 1994 remained tainted by structures of apartheid politics, which are racialised. Part of this took the form of an argument for the transformation of liberation movements into political parties, by which was meant their operating like "modern" institutions that reflect modern business principles and practices, which of course they tend .... to become elitist....

This turned out to be a incorrect expectation because there is little real evidence of them shifting the political terrain from the division epitomised by the ANC on the centre left and the DA in the centre right. At least, what seems to have happened is that the DA has grown support in a component of this, mostly probably those from middle class background, and the ANC, EFF and NFP seem to have earned the votes of young ones born on the periphery of society, in peri-urban and rural areas. Few seem to have been capitivated by the new middle class party and its intentions to be post-liberationist in orientation, the Agang SA.

This mistake was committed partly because we have made the mistake of assuming that they are a homogenous group and that they are indeed born free even though we accept that the communities and families they come from are not free of the baggage of the past. We have exaggerated their individuality and under-estimated their rootedness in broader society that remains scarred, wounded and haunted by the past.

It will take a few decades at least to really see the born frees arise, those who would not be significantly tainted and affected by the apartheid legacy. A generation would be born after the current one passes away, which whose memory would be democracy.

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.