There are just 54 days to go before the next round of local government elections in South Africa. May 18. It’s a Wednesday. It’s also been made a public holiday. Mark it down in your diary.
On that morning, I want you to wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed and then go immediately to the voting station in your area and cast your ballot. I don’t care who for. Honestly, I don’t. But I want you to vote because there is no more powerful expression of your happiness or unhappiness with government and the running of the country than a vote for or against them – and, no, complaining and ranting around a braai doesn’t count. I’ve heard it said that people who don’t vote have no right to complain. Well, that’s complete rubbish. You can always complain, but those complaints won’t mean much unless you do something about it.
So, vote. Please.
You’ve seen service delivery protests across the country, while senior ruling party members splash vast amounts on cash on stupid things. You constantly hear rumours and talk of bribery, corruption and maladministration, tender-rigging and jobs-for-pals. You hear of state bodies and organs of state being unable to perform their functions and wasting taxpayer money.
This is alarming and adds to the disillusion.
From the opposition side, too, there are concerns. The IFP (who just 15 years ago were the ruling party in KwaZulu-Natal) is fast crumbling, with several senior members moving on to other parties – including the wife of national organiser Albert Mncwango this week. The DA is still struggling to shake off its image as a whites-only party. Even though this perception is incorrect, it’s an image they are seemingly unable to get rid of, and it’s an image that is going to harm them. The Minority Front caters for such a limited audience and group of people that even those people it targets are getting annoyed. The African Christian Democratic Party also doesn’t have huge clout and the Independent Democrats are no longer really independent since the merge with the DA. And then there’s Cope and on this, the less said the better.
Yes, all the parties will have their loyal voters who won’t change. But there are a lot of voters who can’t seem to find an acceptable place to put their cross on May 18 (I say again: diarise that date and go vote). As I said, I understand that frustration.
So how will things pan out on election day? With all the goings-on and political shenanigans – with all the accusations and rumours, turmoil and movement of politicians from one party to another – what might happen come May 18? This is what I think will happen: (In eThekwini and KZN, where I live and work)
ANC: The ANC should really be harmed by the number of service delivery protests and the unhappiness over what government is doing (or not doing), particularly among poor communities. The accusations of fraud and corruption should damage the party’s reputation. The behaviour and over-the-top statements by its leaders and known funders should leave them struggling to find support. But it won’t. The party will, I believe, grow their support across the country – apart from in the Western Cape, where the DA has control. In eThekwini in particular, the movement of former IFP caucus leader and Executive Committee member Thembi Nzuza will be a massive boost to their prospects. She is incredibly capable and very impressive. I expect her to feature highly in the ANC’s election plans. Ultimately, in Durban, the ANC will boost their position as the leading party in the metro.
DA: During the national and provincial government election a few years ago, it was interesting to see how well the DA did in predominantly rural areas. It was unexpected. It was impressive. And now the party will be beginning to hope to grow their support and maybe – just maybe – pick up one or two of these wards. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Their stigma as a whites-only party (as untrue as this is) is one that will harm their prospects. To many, they are still seen as the remnant of the NP, DP and NNP. It’s always going to be difficult to overcome this. The hiring of an all-white cabinet didn’t help their cause, and neither did the whole open-toilet saga in Cape Town. However, I do think the party is going to increase its support base and grow. It will pick up more wards this time around than during the last local government election. But I believe these will be at the expense of the other opposition parties and, therefore, will not harm the ANC.
IFP: It’s sad to say, but I think this might just be the IFP’s last stand as an opposition party in South African politics. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I certainly think they will, at best, limp their way to the national government election in two years’ time – and that will be their last stand. Beset by infighting that only Cope can pretend to compete with, the party is a shell of its former self. What it stands for is no longer clear and its leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, has even come out recently saying that it was a party in trouble. The departure of fired national chairwomen Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi to form her own party will hurt the IFP – and hurt them badly. As will the departure of Thembi Nzuza to the ANC. Oh, and as will the departure of Mncwango’s wife. Expect the IFP to lose a large number of its wards as a result. But then, who benefits? Ultimately, the ANC. I can’t see many disgruntled IFP voters putting their support behind the DA, MF or any of the other opposition parties. I can, however, see them switching to the ANC.
New Freedom Party: This was the party formed by kaMagwaza-Msibi after her fallout with the IFP. The question is, how will this party do? It’s a tough one, to be honest. There have been no signs of a manifesto or anything as yet, which makes it difficult to know what they stand for. Zanele has said some good things and made some positive comment, and it remains to be seen whether or not this will be enough. I don’t think it will be. Yes, she might do well in Zululand, where she was mayor and has a lot of support. Beyond this, I can’t see her having much of an impact. She will want to win a few wards to have some presence for the next election, but that’s about the best she can wish for. Like Cope a few years ago, this is the unknown entity – the wildcard, if you will – of this election.
MF: The MF is a strange beast. On the one hand, the fact that it openly tries to entice only the Indian vote means this narrow-minded should cost it support. But, somehow, it doesn’t. Election after election they perform better than expected and manage to pick up support. Yes, it is support from those same narrow markets, but it’s support nonetheless. And I think this will, again, be the case. Expect them to lose some support (probably with the DA benefiting), but they will still do alright – and probably better than expected.
COPE: I’m really upset with Cope and what is happening internally there. Because, as the two factions are at war with each other, what could have been a viable black opposition parties has become pointless. Some described the in-fighting as two cowboys arguing over who gets to ride the dead horse. How will Cope do in the election? Terribly. I don’t expect them to win a single ward in eThekwini and suspect they may not even get enough votes win a PR seat.
OTHER OPPOSITION PARTIES: I can’t see any other opposition parties doing particularly well here. The ACDP will probably lose out to the DA, as will the ID.
So, yeah, that’s it. Let me know what you think. Comment on this post or email matthew(dot)savides(at)gmail(dot)com.