“These elections will realign SA politics (forever),” DA-leader Helen Zille once said about the 2014 elections. Really? I wondered what exactly had changed as Jacob Zuma, the president of the ANC, entered into these elections the same way he did the last one – facing corruption allegations. This time, however, there were not one but two exciting newcomers – the EFF and Agang SA. Exactly one week later we ask: were South Africa’s fifth democratic elections all that special? Hold tight as we analyse the 5 things we’ve learn’t about South Africa’s political future so far since May 7.
The ANC is not Jacob Zuma
The negative media scrutiny showered on Jacob Zuma’s head over Nkandla in the run-up to the elections seems to have impacted more on Jacob Zuma’s individual ratings over those of the ANC proper. It’s why 100 000 people streamed into the FNB Stadium for the Siyanqoba rally on 4 May and a total of 40 stayed for his speech. Though anger remains over the implementation of e-tolls and even the Marikana Massacre, the DA & EFF’s strategy of campaigning directly against Jacob Zuma seem to have subliminally isolated his persona from that of the party, making him the fall guy for the crimes of corruption and accountability many in the ANC NEC and larger party are guilty of. Within the context of a country that still needs significant shifts in economic transformation and where racist attitudes such as those of Warren Blakeman still exist however, the majority of SA’s electorate still identify the ANC as the only party that broadly identifies with their concerns and challenges. More on Warren Blakeman below. Shortly before voting on Wednesday afternoon, Sindiso Mnyeza, a 29 year-old broadcast professional from Sandton, said “It took 400 years for our freedoms to be taken away, why should we only give the ANC 20 years to change that? They need more time,” she later continued, “Zuma is an individual with problems, but the ANC is bigger than that.”
Don’t Believe The Hype
The political platform/political party/acquisition/party platform or whatever Agang SA likes to be called these days, isn’t a top four party after all. If SA media coverage over the past six months were to be believed, Zuma’s ANC would have come in at first at this election, followed closely by the EFF, the DA & Agang SA in that exact order. Somewhere in the north of Johannesburg, the good doctor Mamphela Ramphele now knows that media hype does NOT translate directly into votes after the un-sensational National Freedom Party & Freedom Front Plus significantly outperformed Agang SA at the national and provincial ballot. The NFP, led by former IFP MP Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, took 1.5% of the national vote at their first attempt in-spite of running a relatively low-key campaign similar to that of the Afrikaner-nationalist Freedom Front Plus, which won 0.9%.
That Agang SA were billed as a contender by the media yet captured a paltry 0.28% raises the question of how well the media has assessed the mood of the nation at grass-roots level and how much goes un-detected by editorial rooms.
Transformation of the media industry a topic for another day? OK.
Our politics have been realigned. Somewhat.
The DA got what it wanted. No, not 30% of the vote count, but to deal a psychological blow to the ANC machine’s dominance of SA politics and to consolidate their position as the only party that has consistently grown in each election since 1994. The Helen Zille-led party grew significantly from winning 16.7% in 2009 to winning 22.2% in 2014. An increase of over 5%. An equally significant shift has been that of the Gauteng province – where the ANC’s voter percentage dropped from 64% in 2009 to 53% in 2014, setting the province up as a hotly-contested prospect in the local government elections in 2016 and the next national elections in 2019. The DA & EFF’s positive performance signify a turning point is our politics – that the political leaders and circumstance of 2014 are wholly different from the politics of 1994; and that history will remember the likes of Helen Zille, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema as the leaders that oversaw the first set of radical shifts in SA political behaviour.
Race (still) haunts the complexion of our politics
On election morning, popular rapper AKA posted an image of one Warren Blakeman under the caption, “this guy is a racist”. Blakeman, a not-so-bright former employee of Reebok SA, tweeted that the ANC were a bunch of “corrupt monkeys” and that anyone who votes for them is equally a primate. This was quickly followed by an explosion on black Twitter.
With reason, many young people on Twitter and even prominent figures such as Loyiso Gola and government spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete spun the tweet into an indictment on the mindframe and political outlook of the traditional DA voter. Ironically, comments such as those of Blakeman’s are a sharp, necessary reminder of how far we are yet to travel in terms of race relations in SA and how critical, in fact, the ANC remains to overseeing the social, economic and political transition the country has had to undergo since 1994. Though Reebok SA distanced themselves from Blakeman, interestingly, the DA didn’t comment on the matter.
Ladies and gentleme I present the racist Warren Blakeman pic.twitter.com/STtsJCqrqw
— loyiso gola (@loyisogola) May 7, 2014
South African democracy (politics) is more alive than ever
..because of a stronger opposition. The DA’s 5% growth as well as the EFF’s vocal presence in parliament will make for a more outspoken opposition with a stronger, broader set of viewpoints to counter the ANC’s policies and contest the issue of the ANC’s accountability. The EFF’s quotable quotes will no doubt bring the national assembly into greater focus for the everyday man, setting parliament’s often boring proceedings on fire and making SA politics a wholly more exciting place, friends. We couldn’t be happier.
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