Parties need to hear the message voters have sent them, loud and clear

12 May 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

The nation has spoken and its voice is loud and clear. It has voted for certainty and continuity. It has given the ANC another mandate to govern, but has put the party on final notice. It has rejected populism, untested leadership and chance-takers. Just over 10-million of the 17-million-plus voters who turned up placed their cross next to the ANC. That is almost five percentage points less than what the party obtained in 2014, and is in line with pre-election poll predictions.
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The ANC knows why it was punished. It allowed poor governance and corrupt rent-seekers through the door long enough to alienate a portion of the electorate that would have otherwise voted for it. The significance of its slide below 60% of national support should not be understated. It is on a downward trajectory that should have party bosses extremely worried. That it has shed more than 12 percentage points since 2004 should be real cause for concern.This victory comes with a price attached, and is hedged with factors that should give pause at Luthuli House. It's a narrow escape, really, for a party that subjected SA to the predations of Jacob Zuma's nine wasted years, state capture and the Guptas, the Bosasa scandal and any number of localised scandals in health, education and social services.
The likes of Ace Magashule and Jessie Duarte should accept that the new-broom effect from Cyril Ramaphosa's surprise election at Nasrec in December 2017 went a long way in banishing the ghosts of the dreadful Zuma years, and the ANC's complicity with its president.
The voters, it seems, have given the ANC a second chance, but it dare not take this trust for granted.
The party has slipped below 60% for the first time, and the number of spoilt votes, the low turnout and the marked lack of interest from, especially, young people - who failed in huge numbers to register - indicate a significant level of disquiet with the ANC and the political system as a whole.
The party's saviour, President Ramaphosa, has his work cut out - that is, if he can face down and disarm the state-capture-tainted faction of the party, starting with Magashule. Ramaphosa the reformist must take the bull by the horns and start leading. He must finish the cleanup of state institutions that he started last year, he must stabilise the economy, win back investor confidence and curb stubborn unemployment. He must carry out his plan to trim the cabinet by merging departments. But, most importantly, he must appoint capable people to those ministries, who in turn will appoint capable bureaucrats to reform the public service and make it work for the people.
The DA has also emerged from the election with a bloodied nose. Mmusi Maimane's attempts to transform his party from within and attract more black support have not borne much fruit. He has failed to grow support and that could have huge implications for his own future. Having lost the conservative vote to the Freedom Front Plus, the DA must put a stop to the myopia and decide what kind of party it wants to be.For the EFF, the question is whether it celebrates its four-percentage-pointgain in national support or laments its failure to hurt the ANC. It almost caused a hung legislature in Gauteng, but the ANC survived by a whisker. Maybe if the EFF had been able to convince its young supporters to go out and vote, rather than just express support on social media, it would have produced a different result.As for the smaller hopefuls, their protests over possible rigged elections and threat of court action are absurd. The electorate rejected them. They need a lesson in democracy.After this, the sixth election, the Independent Electoral Commission must take a closer look at its procedures, especially in respect of double voting. The technological solutions are there to ensure there is no doubt about an election outcome. But once again, SA has proven that despite its many challenges, it ticks all the boxes of a functioning democracy.

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