By Jedi Ramalapa
PRETORIA, May 7– For the African National Congress (ANC), which has governed South Africa since the first general election of the post-apartheid era in 1994, Wednesday’s national elections will signal a watershed moment, which has so far assumed a character of arrogant entitlement as the country’s ruling liberation movement, say political analysts.
Professor Tinyiko Maluleke from the University of Johannesburg says should there be a downward trend post elections, and questions should be asked of how the ruling party manages to win votes despite its controversial rule over the past 20 years.
“We must begin to ask ‘How does the ANC do it, post-Marikana and post-Nkandla”, he added in reference to the fatal shooting of striking miners at Marikana and the millions of Rand in public funds spent on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private home at Nkandla.
A number of public opinion polls indicate that the ANC is likely to win this election by at least 50 per cent. Maluleke said it would be interesting to see how the ANC would then consolidate gains made in the “miraculous” elections of 1994, including its watershed win of 70 per cent of the national vote in 2004.
Independent political analyst Michael O’Donovan says the burgeoning black middle class is also a defining new feature, which could change the voter behaviour for this year’s election presidential and national and provincial legislative assembly polls.
“Where in the past there were divisions between race groups, now we’re seeing growing inequality within the race groups themselves,” said O’Donovan, who added that the growing black middle class would vote to preserve their privileged positions.
“How people will vote will depend largely on how they define themselves, and the black middle class defines itself as middle class and not just black. They will vote to preserve what they have.”
Public intellectual Lebogang Pheko says there’s been an internal crisis of democracy within parties leading up to these elections, which has led to the formation of a number of break-away parties such as the National Freedom Party (NFP) in Kwazulu-Natal Province, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which is considered to be a “dark-horse” in this election and AGANG SA led by Maphela Mamphela.
Pheko said it would be interesting to see whether the new parties will have staying power post-elections and not suffer the same fate as the Congress of the People (COPE) which failed to sustain momentum after it’s historic break-way from the ANC in 2009.
She added that social movements had also been demobilized and had largely lost credibility in the lead-up to these elections, which has left the country’s electorate with no viable alternative.
Despite current opinion polls predicting a clear and undisputed win for the ANC at the polls, Professor Piet Croucamp of the University of Johannesburg said it was not possible to argue that the ANC is a monolithic power.
“I think there will be more black people who will vote for the DA in this election than white people who will vote for the FF Plus,” he said.
Somadoda Fikeni said political parties should focus on consolidating their political message to their supporters in the last day before the polls to ensure that all their supporters and party agents come out to vote.
He said voter turn-out could not be determined by public attendance of political rallies as seen at the weekend. “Political rallies are not a good indicator of voter turnout; political parties will have to intensify their messaging over the next few hours to ensure that their supporters go out and vote.”