Next April, The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will face its toughest elections since 1994. New political parties will challenge the ANC. We talked with Else Strivens, editor of the Trefoil magazine based in Johannesburg.
New political parties have been created recently in South Africa, the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) and Agang being the most reported on stories. Is this a consequence of a crisis of legitimacy of the ANC?
For some people enchantment with the liberation party has worn off. Improving people’s lives is more difficult than just changing the government. It has taken 18 years for this to become apparent and new parties are springing up to try to find more effective solutions. However, many people cannot conceive of an alternative to the ANC and so we are not likely to see a viable alternative to the ANC emerge in the short term. Perhaps the new political parties are a sign of the maturation of our new democracy and will lead to better national debates, more rational and more reasonable, but we are aware that political multiplicity does not automatically mean better politics, as we see in India, Italy and Kenya. We will only know what people think when voters have had their say.
What is the base of support of these two new parties: EFF and Agang?
EFF’s support is the poor, young black, attracted to a bold assertive leader and his courage to stand up to Zuma. Agang, with its prominent highly-educated leader, will be supported by liberal, corporate interests and may appeal to the new black middle-class, often professionals, but what is their problem – many are the beneficiaries of ANC policies. Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has announced that the main opposition has chosen Mamphela Ramphele, who just a year ago launched her own political platform, Agang, as its presidential candidate.
South Africa will go to the polls in two months. What will be the driving forces and the trends of the electoral campaigning?
The ANC will point to the progress of the black population: houses built, water and electricity connected. The DA (Democratic Alliance) will probably aim to prioritise issues and offer solutions to areas that are the most problematic in our society and prioritise financial accountability. It may point to waste of public resources, inefficiency and corruption, and compare this to their success in running the municipality of Cape Town. The EFF will hold out hope to poor black youth with their policies, modelled on Chavez’s Venezuela; they call Malema ‘commander’ a la Chavez. The elections will be polarising, with issues such as the unpopular e-tolls, inequality of incomes, lack of concern for the poor, corruption and Zuma’s leadership, violent crime and the serious difficulties in the educational system, coming to the fore.
What is your expected outcome of the vote?
My guess is that the ANC will win with a slightly reduced majority – it will win between 50 and 60% of the vote. Two very recent developments have been: first, on 17 December 2013 it was announced that five of the smaller opposition parties have formed a coalition ahead of the general elections. The new Collective for Democracy (CD) consists of the African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People (COPE), the Freedom Front Plus, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the United Christian Democratic Party. In the last general elections (2009) the ANC alliance won 264 seats and the largest opposition party was the DA, 67 seats (16.7% of the vote). Members of the new grouping had a total of 57 seats. (In the 2011 local elections, the DA’s share of the vote increased to 24.1%). The new coalition’s agreement is centred on 20 ‘joint areas of priority’. These include prioritising education and training, opposing the Protection of State Information Bill and reviewing ‘bloated’ government to ensure efficiency and affordability. Second, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA), the largest metalworkers union (and second largest trade union) in South Africa with close to 232,000 members has been an active affiliate of COSATU (part of the ruling ANC-led alliance). Last december in a special congress, the delegates discussed about its continued membership of COSATU, its support for the ANC-led alliance at the next elections and the possibility of forming a new political party. Its newly elected president, Andrew Chirwa, suggested that it is appropriate for Mr Zuma to resign.
Do you think that the passing away of Mandela will have political consequences?
I think it is unlikely to have any political consequences. Mandela has been out of the public eye for a long time. However, an unexpected consequence has been the continual comparison being made between Mandela and Zuma. This may impact on support for the ANC, if Zuma remains the presidential candidate for the next term. Every party claims Mandela’s legacy of honesty, a spirit of reconciliation and selflessness. As Mandela remained a member of the ANC, it has the strongest claim. (V.G.)