Reflections on the election
Though the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, most of the votes have been counted, and one can begin to see possible trends in the 2014 General Election in South Africa.
One of the most significant things that strikes me is that in the great City of Tshwane, where I live, the ANC thus far has polled less than 50% in the Provincial polls. Though all the results are not yet in, the current figure is 49.54%. If that trend continues to the muncipal elections in two years’ time, the ANC could lose control of the city council.
The figure for the national poll in Tshwane was a little over 51%, and that is in itself quite interesting. Nearly 47000 people voted for the ANC for parliament, but did not vote for the ANC for the provincial council.
In fact the ANC appears to have lost a lot of support in Gauteng generally.
I’m quite surprised at the result in Tshwane, because on the whole I think our city council has performed fairly well. Roads are repaired, rubbish is removed, the infrastructure seems to be working most of the time. I know that it’s a big place, and some parts of the city may be worse off, but generally Tshwane has not seem the same kind of service delivery protests that have been seen in other parts of the country.
One issue that has probably affected citizens of Tshwane more than many other residents of Gauteng, and affected Gauteng more than other provinces, is e-tolls, for which Sanral announced an increase in tariffs the day after the election.
Though that is probably not the only issue that has caused a drop in support for the ANC, it is certainly one of the ones that was most publicised in Gauteng and affected large numbers of people, and almost all the opposition parties said that they were opposed to e-tolls.
Taking a wider view, and looking at the country as a whole, one of the outstanding features has been the even more spectacular decline in support for COPE (the Congress of the People Party). I don’t think that was unexpected, or that anyone was greatly surprised by it. COPE did quite well in the 2009 elections for a new party, but the unseemly and very public squabbles among its leaders from then until now meant that no one could take them seriously at all, and so most voters didn’t.
If e-tolls was an issue that affected Gauteng, the Marikana massacre was one that affected the North-West Province, and the platinum miners in particular. And the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were the party that took their plight most seriously.
I suspect that the EFF drew some of its support from the moribund COPE, and and more from disgruntled ANC voters who felt that the ANC had betrayed the working class and the unemployed.
I suspect that it also drew some support that might otherwise have gone to Agang.
Agang, like the EFF, was a new party in this election, but, like COPE, it shot itself in the foot before it really got started, with Mamphela Ramphele’s disastrous flirtation with the DA. I suspect that many of those who might have been willing to support Agang would never have voted for the DA, and were looking for an alternative to both the ANC and the DA. After the flirtation with the DA, I think many potential voters probably transferred their votes to the EFF and the other smaller parties, and would not have voted for the DA even if Agang had merged with it.
I think it is a pity in a way, because Mamphela Ramphele had some good things to say about education, and perhaps if she makes it to parliament as the sole representative of her party (there have been precedents for that) she might be able to exercise some influence for good.
Agang did get some votes, and I suspect that, rather unusually for a proportional representation system, people were voting for a person and not for a party list. Some may have voted for sentimental reasons, seeing Mamphele Ramphela as a vestigial representative of Black Consciousness, which flourished in the 1970s — and Azapo seems to have lost some if the little support that it had.
The DA has increased its support, but I think that it has almost reached its limit. I don’t think it can hope to get much more than 25%, 30% at the very most. I think the EFF has more potential for growth, because their potential support base is much larger — the workers and the unemployed outnumber the middle class who vote for the DA, though, to be honest, I think I prefer WASP (the Workers and Socialist Party) to the EFF. They stand for many of the same things, but they lack the fat cat leaders.