Opinion

Tough lessons for political parties from the school of hard knocks that was SA's election of 2019

12 May 2019 - 00:06


The good thing is that nothing catastrophic happened. There were no major surprises or upsets in the elections. Of course it is troubling that there was an uptick in support for the Freedom Front Plus, meaning that more white people are opting to swing right and are rejecting the multiracialism of our society.
This, however, is by no means the rise of the alt-right, as has been evident in other parts of the world.
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And let's put this in perspective. There were 26,779,025 people registered to vote. Around 415,000 people opted to vote for the FF Plus.So it is not like we have to contend with SA's answer to Donald Trump or Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro any time in the future.Also comforting is that there was a resounding rejection of parties masquerading as proponents of "radical economic transformation" when they were actually fronts for scoundrels in the ANC and the fugitive Gupta family.
The Black First Land First bigots will luckily never come close to mainstreaming their revolting politics from the parliamentary platform, and the former SABC wrecking ball Hlaudi Motsoeneng will hopefully finally withdraw to the lunatic fringe of society where he belongs.
With the real agenda of the African Transformation Movement now exposed, its representatives must decide what they stand for and not be used by the failed businessman, media mogul and government hack Mzwanele Manyi to run interference in the ANC.
Manyi led the move by a throng of smaller parties to have a rerun of the election, claiming that there was mass fraud due to incidents of double voting in some parts of the country.
The major case of apparent double voting happened in my hometown, Dannhauser in KwaZulu-Natal, where 17 people were taken into custody.
I would advise that people not think my little town is reflective of a countrywide trend.
Strange things tend to happen in Dannhauser. An ox once had a heart attack and died in full public view, and another time the townsfolk thought we had accidentally discovered an alternative to eye surgery when a spilt jar of chilli powder removed someone's cataract.
Loopholes in the voting system aside, the elections were largely trouble-free. The decision about whether to vote and who to vote for, however, was not.
The state of the nation, the track record of the various parties and the plague of corruption caused many people to think deeply about their voting choices.
The restlessness of the electorate was apparent throughout the campaign season and parties had to work for every single vote.The results hold hard lessons for all the parties that have dominated the political scene.The ANC can no longer bank on its liberation history to win elections. In future polls, the voters roll will be dominated by people who do not have a memory of the liberation struggle.This was the first time the electorate really held the ANC to account for its failures, and punished it for the litany of corruption scandals.The ANC has been given a final chance to redeem itself before it faces a full rebellion from its constituency.The DA has hopefully learnt that people will not vote for it if all it has to offer is disparagement of the ANC. The party must acknowledge that it has an identity crisis and people are unsure of what and who it represents.
It would be unfair for the DA, however, to lay its poor performance only at the door of leader Mmusi Maimane. There are far more people who would have made a conscious decision not to vote DA because of former leader Helen Zille's arrogance rather than Maimane's inexperience.Maimane should not bow to pressure from the conservative wing in the DA to step aside because the party did not meet its growth targets. If he is to build confidence in his leadership, he should assert his authority and encourage those who feel the DA ought to return to protecting minority interests to leave.The EFF is one of the few parties that made gains in the elections, but it still came in under its national target. When former president Jacob Zuma left office, there was speculation that the EFF would lose relevance.But despite its capricious politics and unrealistic election promises, the EFF showed that firebrand politics still has resonance.The EFF could have used its popularity on the ground to partner the ANC in government. But its politics are underlined by malice and brutish behaviour, making a working relationship with any party unfeasible.The era of veteran personalities in politics is now waning. The UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, COPE's Mosiuoa Lekota and the IFP's Mangosuthu Buthelezi ought to exit the political stage as the country is clearly seeking fresh talent.Patricia de Lille, however, has proved to be the Meryl Streep of South African politics, able to steal the show in whatever role she appears.The elections were a hard slog for everyone and the republic remains stable. All things considered, SA did good.

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