THE results of the local government election suggest that little has changed. The ANC lost a percentage point or two compared with it’s 2009 national election result and it held onto all the major metros it already controlled.
The DA gained, but more at the expense of other opposition parties, taking only marginal votes from the ANC.
But there are many more strands to this election than this superficial reading.
The ANC retained its influence by taking some dramatic steps to improve its image among voters. President Jacob Zuma went on record last weekend saying that he now “understood” why there had been such wide protests over service delivery.
This was a major acknowledgement following as it did on years of denial that was a serious delivery problem.
Zuma also hinted strongly that Sicelo Shiceka, the ineffectual minister charged with local government would go and the ANC dumped mayors who had failed, such as Johannesburg’s Amos Masondo, in favour of new faces.
All of these concessions resulted from the reality that the opposition DA has managed to re-imagine itself as a party which first and foremost cares about the delivery of services.
It was no longer a hollow claim made for propaganda purposes. The DA was able to point to a track record of success in Cape Town. It’s message lost some of its power as it dallied over the enclosure of toilets in Makaza, granting the ANC a desperately needed lifeline.
There can be no question that there will be an urgency in both ANC and DA-led councils to demonstrate probity and measurable delivery. The hot breathe of the opposition on your neck is, ultimately, the surest inspiration to properly represent the people.
The eradication of the smaller parties, including the IFP, Cope and the ACDP, by the DA, places South Africa on the path to a two-party electoral system. This will further focus electoral politics and bring more pressure on parties to meet their fulfil promises or face censure from voters.
The danger which now lurks is that parties might retreat into racial categories, with the DA representing minorities and the ANC representing the black majority. This would be tragic proof of the longevity of the apartheid paradigm.
It would ossify politics, limiting the opposition’s growth and it could push the ruling party increasingly into racial politics to bring out its base.
The rise of populist politicians who are not afraid to play the race card has already begun.
But the politics of delivery might yet prove more powerful than that of racial allegiance. Next time around, will failure be tolerated?
*This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
THE most striking feature of the British election result is the divergence between the popular vote and the number of seats won.With 614 seats counted, the Conservatives have 291, Labour has 247 and the Lib Dems have just 51 seats. But the Lib Dems enjoy some 23% of the popular vote – a number that would translate into . Because they have come second or third in constituencies these votes have come to nothing. If the British has a proportional representation system like South Africa’s, the Lib Dems would have 150 seats and would be a far more powerful force.
In South Africa, the ruling party favours proportional representation and the opposition favours constituencies. For now.
My prediction is that as the ANC’s majority starts to shrink, it will undergo a Damascene conversion to a constituency based system. And the opposition will suddenly realise the value of the proportional representation system. Watch this space …
ONE of the greatest political comebacks of all time was formalised today as a 66 percent ANC Parliamentary majority voted Jacob Zuma into Parliament, paving the way for him to assume the highest office in the land on Saturday.
It is exactly three years, 11 months and nine days since then President Thabo Mbeki stood before the National Assembly to make the stunning announcement that Zuma had been fired as Deputy President following the conviction of his financial advisor Schabir Shaik on corruption charges. Read More…
KGALEMA Motlanthe has started his brief presidency leading up to the 2009 election. Should he be replaced by Zuma as the ANC’s candidate or should he stay on to run the country? Vote in the online poll on this page and have your say.
Does Jacob Zuma know what a crisis is?
Motlanthe’s first speech as President: Full text
The five big mistakes that cost Mbeki the presidency
The rise of Kgalema Motlanthe
ANC profile of Kgalema Motlanthe: Full text
Michelle Obama’s opening speech at the Democratic Convention was a masterpiece of rhetoric aimed at rousing Americans into believing that Barack Obama would rescue them from debt better than John McCain. It was very much a speech in the “family values” tradition – which is to be expected from a spouse – which suggests to me that foreign policy on Iraq will not be as big an issue as the economy.
Which, in turn, means that Africa will fall off the radar in an Obama presidency. (see my earlier post on what Obama must do for Africa.)
An extract from Michelle Obama’s speech:
And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he’d grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
NEWS agency Reuters is reporting that US Democratic candidate, Barak Obama, has called on South Africa to up its criticism of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
The agency quotes him saying:
“What’s happening in Zimbabwe is tragic. This is a country that used to be the bread basket of Africa. Mugabe has run the economy into the ground. He has perpetrated extraordinary violence against his own people. Not only do I think that the United Nations needs to continue to apply as much pressure as possible on the Mugabe government, but in particular other African nations, including South Africa, I think have to be much more forceful in condemning the extraordinary violence that’s been taking place there.”
Obama went further saying African leaders had been “quiet for far too long” on Mugabe
“What is remaining of this election is a complete and total sham,” he said.