Millions of voters are under the impression that come 2019 the ANC will lose the general election and an opposition coalition government will be formed.
Unfortunately this is not a foregone conclusion. In a normal democracy but South Africa is not a normal democracy.
Despite the fact that the ruling ANC is in chaos. Everyone is aware that:
? Hardly a day goes by without another scandal hitting the headlines or one ANC structure challenging another ANC structure in court.
? The party is in disarray, there are nine candidates in the field to replace President Zuma in December this year. While there are rumours that Zuma wants to continue for another term as leader of the ANC.
• Cabinet members and structures of the party contradict each other on matters of policy, ANC politicians are killing each other particularly in KZN.
• Corruption and maladministration continues to spiral out of control with neither the HAWKS nor the NPA being seen to be actively involved in eliminating crime and corruption. This reasserts the perception of South Africa as a lawless society rather than a law abiding constitutional democracy.
In this climate the opposition parties should be portraying themselves as a government in waiting, alas that is not the perception of the majority of the voters.
The latest poll by market research firm Ipsos indicates that support for the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is shrinking fast. The survey indicates a huge drop of support for the ANC, from 62% to 47%
However, most disturbing is that the DA and the EFF also did not show growth since the last elections. In fact the DA, which obtained 22.23% in 2014, dropped to 21%. The EFF, which gained 6.35% in 2014, was at 5%.
It is still too early to use this data to predict the outcome of the 2019 general elections but it does indicate that no matter how bad the ANC is performing a large number of voters have not decided who to give their votes too. This poll revealed that about 24% of voters are undecided.
“The feeling of alienation from political parties is thus very real,” Ispos reported and most voters do not claim a loyalty to any particular party.
The results of recent by-elections have not shown any significant swing to the opposition parties with the exception of the election in Nquthu in KZN where the IFP trounced the ANC winning 14 out of 17 wards compared to 10 wards in August 2017. But this trend has not continued in other areas.
In no other by-elections has there been a major swing for or against either the DA or the ANC both parties have traded a few marginal wards but nothing significant, the EFF has continued to trail behind in a poor third place.
These results of the Ispos poll clearly show that voters are disillusioned with the current political antics across the board. In August last year the voters indicated that they wanted change and they wanted the change through the opposition working together in coalitions.
They gave the opposition parties the opportunity to prove that they could govern well and change the lives of people. A year later many people possibly feel that their conditions have not changed yet the opposition politicians are now bickering amongst themselves over issues of power and positions, with each party is trying upstage the other.
Is it a surprise that voters are apathetic and disillusioned?
We are however living in an age of coalition and alliance politics and in my opinion none of the parties anticipated the difficulty of holding together such alliances while trying to govern their respective Metros.
The DA should have been aware of the hurdles that lay ahead of them and their coalitions and alliances. The ANC demonstrated in Cape Town in 2006 under the then Mayor, Helen Zille, when they had to rule with a coalition government comprising the DA and six other political parties. The ANC used every trick in the trade to try to overthrow that DA led coalition government.
The EFF was always going to be a challenge because with them not being a coalition or an alliance partner the DA is at risk from them at any time. Even where there are formal agreements between the various partners there is still the difficulty of enforcing the agreement because if one partner is kicked out of the coalition there is no one to replace them and the coalition will collapse.
This is a distinct possibility in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
Should any of the coalition governments fail in the Metros and new elections are called it would reflect badly on the opposition as a whole but the DA in particular. The voters will see it as a breach of trust and would be unlikely to place their trust in the same people again in 2019.
The DA is placed in the unenviable task, being the largest party in the coalitions, because all the parties will share in the successes achieved but the DA will be blamed for any failures.
This places a heavy burden on the leadership of all parties at both a local and national level to ensure that the current metros succeed. In all probability in 2019 they are going to want to cobble together a more important coalition government to govern South Africa.
There can be no doubt that the three new DA Executive Mayors Herman Mashaba, Solly Msimanga and Athol Trollip inherited far worse chaos than was anticipated. All three of them have also worked hard to fulfil their election promises. Governance and service delivery has shown a marked improvement where they are in power but there is still much to be done.
Because the DA has set such high standards for the governing party and in the areas where it governs the voters expect those same standards in municipalities that they have recently started to govern. Unfortunately when that does not happen these voters resort to social media to air their frustrations to all and sundry which ultimately reflects on the DA
This opportunity places an even heavier responsibility on the DA in particular not to antagonise the smaller parties. In my opinion the manner in which the DA handled the “dissolution of parliament” motion was clumsy and damaging. By the same token Bantu Holomisa and the UDM in trying to hold the NMB coalition to ransom is also not helpful. All parties need to keep a cool head and look at the bigger picture.
It is my perception that the current voter turnoff is because the voters are tired of the current political machinations.
• They are tired of seeing parliament being turned into a circus, of grownups shouting at each other, using abusive language, showing members the middle finger or mass walkouts during a sitting.
• How can voters be expected to take politicians seriously when cabinet ministers fall asleep during sessions, when the President and Cabinet Ministers mislead parliament,they don’t answer questions fully or when the Speaker or presiding officers are biased or incompetent.
• After eight attempts the voters don’t want to see another motion of no confidence in Zuma or motions to dissolve parliament. They want to see their parliamentarians in parliament and its committees holding government to account. They want to see and hear their local councillors holding their municipalities to account and being part of the delivery of services.
• Voters do not want to see internal party bickering therefore the DA must without delay eliminate the current spat in Cape Town between Patricia de Lille and JP Smith and any other similar matters that arise in the future.
• Voters do not want double standards therefore the DA must be very cautious in the manner in which they handle matters such as the call for a secret ballot in an ANC no confidence motion in Johannesburg. In such cases their opposition must be well rooted in law and not give rise to the impression that they are being the ANC light and are scared of being put to the test.
Finally, the opposition parties have to grow their presence on the ground amongst the voters. Too often the perception is created that political parties consist only of public representatives who are only seen at election times.
Councillors being at the coalface look after the voter’s problems and maintain contact with the voters whereas growing the support base of a party is grown by activists on the ground.
Elections are won or lost in the four years prior to the next election; the fifth year is only the time to harvest the information that has been sewed in the previous years. All of the opposition parties have to develop an effective branch structure to develop a network of activists throughout the country, without that the chances of a change of government in South Africa in 2019 becomes a dream.
The ANC and the old National Party were at their strongest when they had branches and/or cells covering every street. Once the NP structures collapsed so did the party. We are currently seeing the ANC structures and their support collapsing.
The DA has one of the most effective election and research political machines in the world. They have mastered campaigning and bringing out the vote in their strongholds and other urban areas but they are yet to make a significant breakthrough into ANC rural strongholds.
Elections are won on the street winning the hearts and souls of the voters. Therefore if the opposition parties are to be an effective potential government these are the areas where they need to invest time, effort and money for the next two years.
Until next time…
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former Mpumalanga DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.