We are now two days away from the local government elections and indeed it is a definitive go. There is no turning back. The question that many pundits are now asking is how big the margin of the ANC victory will be during these elections.
It is a fact that a ruling party as big as the ANC, with all the resources and political machinery at its disposal, will definitely win these elections. However, there are also a number of sub-questions that we might as well attempt to answer as we look deeper into the variables that will assist in tilting the balance of forces in favour of the ANC come Wednesday.
The first question is what will be the meaning of the outcome of 2011 local government elections? What message will they be communicating to and about the South African populace? The ANC’s victory rally, held yesterday at FNB Stadium, correctly captures the mood within the party with a theme “ANC victory is certain”.
What this theme does is confirm the obvious, but does not help us in debunking the complex underlying questions and assumptions underpinning the outcome of these elections. Maybe one would say that it is extremely difficult to predict the outcome of elections in the absence of scientific surveys that should have been conducted by credible institutions.
The reality is that in most cases, scientific surveys undertaken by these institutions do arrive at completely wrong conclusions, as they did with the predicted outcomes of the 2009 general elections. The fundamental assumption they made then was that the ANC was going to win with at least 58% and yet the actual election outcome was opposite of what they predicted. For purposes of coherence in the discussion let me go back to the sub-questions and deal with them chronologically.
Surely, the outcome of these elections will present us with a new reality as far as the South African political landscape is concerned. The fact of the matter is that certain sections of the black voters, Africans in particular, no longer see a “white” party like the DA as their ideological and political opponent as was the case before 1994. We have seen Zille parading blacks in the townships as supporters of the DA and they do not seem to be bothered by that. Instead they dance and toyi-toyi with her.
Surprisingly, there has not been a single incident where she has been chased away by communities. She has also been welcomed by the traditional leaders in Limpopo. Certainly, somewhere, somehow things have changed and black political parties have been caught napping.
Again, the persistent question still begs an answer: what will be the real meaning of these elections?
Undoubtedly, the DA is making serious inroads into the traditional base of the ANC and, to the contrary, the ANC is finding it hard to penetrate Zille’s back yard. The DA has also taken over the communication strategy of the ANC and is using black people in its television and radio advertisements. Most political parties are not using air space as effectively as the DA does. It does appear, though, that the DA’s electoral strategy has outpaced all its opponents and faces no strong counter-offensive from either side of the spectrum.
Obviously, the guard has been lowered and Zille seems to be punching with precision. It will be important therefore for analysts and commentators to observe how the DA’s electoral strategy will succeed in swaying voters in the African communities in favour of the DA.
The open toilets scandal in the ANC back yard has thrown its electoral strategy into total disarray and its leaders are now caught with their pants down. This saga further exposes the deep-seated institutional weakness that is inherent in all tiers of the government. For sure, the government’s monitoring and evaluation capacity is totally ineffective if not nonexistent. The Times newspaper reported a similar problem of open toilets in Moqhaka, Free State during the same week the ANC Youth League was demolishing open toilets in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. What is all this noise about?
Why was this problem in the Free State not investigated when first brought to the fore? Maybe it is about time that Collins Chabane, the minister responsible for monitoring and evaluation, gets a rude awakening. It appears that he has not yet fully comprehended his role. This is also a clear confirmation that politicians have completely lost touch with reality on the ground and only discover service delivery-related problems when it’s elections. This political gerrymandering over the toilets calamity must come to an end. It will also be important for the pundits to add this saga as another variable and see the extent to which it will sway voters in the affected wards in favour or against any of the perpetrators of social injustice.
Clearly, these elections will tell us that the generation that is voting this week is not imprisoned by the unresolved national question and apartheid legacy, hence it is easy for some to welcome Zille in their communities.
On the one hand, the DA is demonstrating that it has long abandoned Tony Leon’s aggressive fight-back strategy, which greatly alienated the majority of black people it desperately needed. A clear message will also be sent to opposition parties that they will all dig their own graves until they unite under one umbrella. There is now talk of a two-horse electoral race wherein the DA is pitted against the ANC as if the smaller parties did not exist.
The ANC yesterday had its victory rally and hopefully other opposition parties did the same. The elections trend analysts will have to assist in unpacking the extent to which pop stars who get invited to perform at these rallies contribute in swaying votes in favour of