BEYOND THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION
South African politics will never be the same following the final declaration of the 2016 Municipal Elections on Saturday 6 August.
These results were certainly a vindication of the commitment of the 1.7% of the South Africans who never lost faith in the principles of the then Democratic Party in 1994. Most political commentators and opponents were prepared to write the party off as a by-line of South African history. In fact I remember a colleague of mine telling me that I was wasting my time supporting the DP because it was a ‘Dead Party’ – well look where we are now!
These detractors seemed to forget what the English philosopher and political economist, John Stuart Mill said in the 19th Century “One person with a belief is equal to 99 with an interest.” This was very clearly demonstrated on 12 March 1997 when Mike Waters, currently DA Deputy Chief Whip in the National Assembly, won a former NP stronghold. The first in a string of 20 odd consecutive by-elections wins over a two year period in NP strongholds.
I would like to think that my small contribution to the current situation, particularly in Witbank and Mpumalanga, was on 31 July 1997 when the DP won Ward 12 in Witbank. This was the first ever DP victory in Mpumalanga and I had the privilege of being the Party’s candidate.
How the various Parties fared:
The myth has now been shattered that the ANC is invincible and that Black South Africans will vote for the party blindly. In common with many other African states, after twenty years, the glitter has begun to wear off the liberation movement and bread and butter politics have become the order of the day.
The ANC can no longer rely on its liberation struggle credentials to draw supportive voters to the polls. It has been proved that many former loyal voters are disillusioned by the lack of improvement in their circumstances and are losing patience. Factionalism is rife, and the party is mired in corruption allegations and an inability to revive the ailing economy and reduce unemployment. Aware of its precarious position, the ANC made controversial candidate choices. The nomination of Thoko Didiza, an outsider, to stand for the contested municipality of Tshwane is one such example.
This election conclusively showed that the ANC’s organisation and election machine is in tatters. Rather than tackling their opponents ANC members and activists squabbled amongst themselves over positions of power and patronage. Even spending a whopping R1 billion could not replace a dedicated core of activists.
The DA can be happy about its performance, especially in the Metro’s where it managed to reduce the ANC to below 50% in four of the remaining seven metropoles not governed by the DA.
Mmusi Maimane has proved that he has the leadership material to lead an alternative government. Despite the ANC fighting the election on a ‘race card’, attacking Maimane personally he has proved that he neither is anyone’s puppet nor is he a coconut. He has tackled the campaign with enthusiasm and energy criss-crossing the country many times over the last six months.
The DA has also silenced those critics who questioned their handling of internal race issues. These prophets of doom forecast that the Dianne Kohler Barnard incident was going to cost the DA votes, we would even lose Cape Town. As I said in Political Perceptions # 22 it was nothing but ‘a storm in a teacup’ that the ANC tried to exploit for political gain.
This election clearly demonstrated that the DA has the most professional election strategists in the country. Unlike the ANC the DA managed to contact, sometimes over doing it, all its potential supporters and then managed to get them out to vote.
The DA has confirmed itself as South Africa’s leading opposition party. It remains a liberal party that has set itself apart with a track record of transparent and efficient governance.
The EFF too can be happy with their performance. Unlike the UDM and COPE, it is the only ANC offshoot that has managed to show growth in two consecutive elections. Although far from Julius Malema’s wild predictions of winning Nelson Mandela Bay, Cape Town and other municipalities they have managed to cement their position as South Africa’s third largest political party.
The EFF identifies itself as a “radical and militant economic emancipation movement” to the left of the ANC; it contested their first local municipal election this year. Established three years ago by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, the controversial party won twenty-five parliamentary seats in the 2014 general election. The EFF’s rhetoric has had particular appeal mainly to South Africa’s youth of which over 50% remain unemployed
What the party lacks in resources and experience it makes up with enthusiasm. Should they improve their resources and organisation they could develop into a major political entity.
The other smaller political parties were in the main totally sidelined, COPE was the big loser having its share of the vote reduced to 0.42% from 2.14%. Its total votes dropped from 274 079 to 62 582 votes. The UDM showed a small decline from 0.63% of the votes to 0.56%.
The two minor parties that showed modest growth was the IFP which grew from 3.58% to 4.23% most of this growth can probably be attributed to the NFP being disqualified from the elections for not paying their election deposit. However, considering that in 2011 they received 2.41% of the vote it is fair to assume that the rest of their votes were split between the ANC and the DA. This administrative error could easily lead to the demise of the NFP.
The Freedom Front + also increased their votes by almost 50 000 increasing their percentage votes from 0.45% of the votes to 0.77%. This is far below the percentage they had anticipated.
A number of local structures also recorded some gains such as the Bushbuck Ridge Residents Association which won four wards in the Bushbuckridge Local Municipal Council as well as inexplicably one ward in Bela Bela (Warmbaths) in Limpopo where it holds the casting vote. It is clear that there is relevance in local government for organisations promoting specific local issues.
Interesting, and in some ways sad, the old far left liberation movements have virtually disappeared from the SA political terrain. The PAC received 28 171votes (0.19%) and AZAPO 9 801votes (0.07%). After 1994 neither movement could adapt to a multi party democracy.
The age of coalition governments.
In drafting the South African Constitution the Constitutional Assembly was very clear on a number of principles:
Clause 1. Universal adult suffrage, a national common voters roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness;
Clause Composition and election of Municipal Councils
An electoral system in terms of subsection (2) must result, in general in proportional representation.
These clauses were specifically drafted to ensure that all segments of the community were accommodated at the local level of government.
The results from 3 August have for the first time since 1994 meant that the ANC dominance in elected structures is no longer the case. Data gathered after the municipal elections shows that there is a total of 27 hung councils spanning the country. They include the country’s capital‚ Tshwane‚ economic hub (City of Joburg), the psychologically important Nelson Bay Metro as well as Ekhuruleni and smaller councils from Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal to Nama Khoi in the Northern Cape and Thabazimbi in Limpopo.
At the time of writing all eyes are on the important Tshwane and Johannesburg metropoles where the possibility of a DA/EFF coalition. However, people should not lose sight of the developments in some of the smaller municipalities such as Modimole (ANC 13; DA 7; EFF 6; FF+ 2) or Mogale City (ANC 38; DA 27; EFF 9; IFP 1; FF+ 2). The negotiations in the major metros could well play out and influence these smaller municipalities and political parties.
Currently all the parties are in negotiations the outcome of which could affect South African politics for the foreseeable future. A single decision could either make or break a Party.
It is interesting to note how the various Parties, particularly the small ones are demanding their pound of flesh to prop up the ailing ANC. In most cases there appears to be a basic demand that Jacob Zuma must go. The extent of the ANC’s desperation for power will determine how much these Parties achieve. In my opinion demands from the AIC for the reincorporation of Matatiel into KZN or the PAC’s demand for over 100 ‘political prisoners’ is further than the ANC will be prepared to go.
The formation of a coalition that goes against the wishes of the voters could also be fatal for the future of a Party. Most political commentators believe that the general mood of the voters was against the ANC and therefore the odds are against the ANC getting many bedfellows.
There is a concern amongst supporters of both the DA and the EFF about forming a coalition. As a lifelong ‘true blue’ liberal I have no major hang-ups about the concept. In actual fact providing they stick to providing good, clean and efficient service and cut out national politics both Parties could benefit from the arrangement.
Such an agreement could help the DA to lose its image as an elitist white political Party that can and does deliver services to Black people. The EFF could benefit from the coalition by shaking off its populist socialist image by adhering to fiscal discipline to deliver services without resorting to ‘toy-toying’ or violent protests.
At the time of writing all the major political parties are still negotiating about possible local coalition governments. In terms of the law the Parties have until Saturday 20 August to reach an agreement on coalitions or other forms of governing such as minority government or a government of ‘local unity’.
It is doubtful if any of the Parties, least of all the ANC, would be keen to have a rerun in these contested municipalities in the foreseeable future. I would therefore venture to suggest that before the end of the week there will be several important announcements.
I will stick my neck out that ultimately the DA and EFF which will also include the UDM, ACDP and COPE will reach an agreement to take control of the major Metro’s and other strategic towns. This would place about 83% of local government’s finances under opposition control.
In the strongly DA Western Cape some coalitions have been announced. The Independent Coalition of SA (Icosa) in Kannaland in the Western Cape where they are in coalition with the ANC. In the Western Cape the Democratic Alliance concluded a deal with three regional parties, the Karoo Gemeenskap Party (KGP), the Karoo Democratic Force (KDF) and the Karoo Ontwikkelings Party (KOP), to form a majority government in Prince Albert, Laingsburg and Beaufort West, as well as the greater Central Karoo District Municipality.
Despite their gains both the DA and the EFF have got work to do before 2019. The two Parties have done well but more is needed if they are to challenge for power in 2019.
The DA’s total vote increased from 3.178 million (23.80%) to 4.005 million (26.77%), whereas in the first municipal election the EFF received 1.218 million (8.14%). The ANC vote dropped from 8.144 million (60.98%) to 7.979 million (53.34%). As for the smaller parties they have to rethink their relevance on the national political stage.
Mmusi Maimane and the DA now have the wind from behind and providing they keep their election machine well oiled and delivers on their promises in the new areas that they govern together with a new drive to attract urban black voters they could fare much better in 2019. Any falter in these tasks could send them right back again.
Julius Malema and the EFF now need to show that they are a political party that has well thought out and practical policies. They can no longer be a vocal protest group; they must become relevant and build up an election machine.
With the ANC flying into a head wind they face a major challenge, they have to regain the trust of voters who they have let down and treated as fools.
Currently they are in denial, they refuse to acknowledge that Jacob Zuma and his acolytes are the problem, Cyril Ramaphosa the potential next President who was well regarded has now lost respect of many people and the other potential contender Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would represent more of the same. They need to take drastic action to change their image or we could see their demise within the next decade.
What South Africa does not need is for people like Gwede Mantashe querying the fairness of the electoral system. After favouring it for twenty years he suddenly questions its legitimacy. I am of the firm opinion that the current system for the election of local councillors fulfils the constitutional imperatives and is the only sphere of government where the voters can chose their actual representative.
My only reservation about the current system is that the various political parties’ leadership, the ANC more than others, interfere with the choice of the local community nominations.
It would be an injustice to conclude without paying tribute to Mr. Glen Mashinini the Head of the IEC. His appointment was greeted with concern from across the political spectrum, me included, that he was a Zuma lackey. However, in my opinion the IEC handled the election well and all irregularities dealt with promptly without fear or favour. Perhaps we have another Thuli in the making.
Until next time,