by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – AT the official announcement of the results of the recently-concluded local government elections in South Africa, the programme director called for a moment of silence.
This was to pay respect to the thousands that have lost their lives to the most severe outbreak of COVID-19 in the continent.
The sombre moment might as well have been to mark the demise of the continent’s oldest liberation movement as the most dominant party in South Africa.
Such has been the mediocrity that there was even a round of applause from some senior members in the African National Congress (ANC) when it was announced that the party had secured 47,90 percent of the vote.
This is the first time since the advent of independence and the end of white minority rule in 1994 that the party’s support has dropped below 50 percent.
“If this were a national election, they (ANC) would no longer be in government,” said John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), which came second with 20 percent.
Party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, who attended the results announcement in his capacity as head of state, seemed uninterested.
Television cameras captured him twiddling on his mobile phone as the ANC result was read out.
Days earlier, he was booed before casting his vote in his birthplace of Soweto, the same area where he was heckled as he launched his party’s campaign.
Ramaphosa put on a brave face this week as he presided over the post-election ANC Siyabonga (Thank You) event at the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg.
“The ANC is not about to collapse,” he assured supporters.
“The ANC has suffered a setback,” Ramaphosa added.
Even the most ardent of ruling party supporters however would concede the prospects are gloomy.
Testing times lie ahead for a party where unity is at its lowest ever amid factionalism.
Some of the factional wars turned deadly where some party individuals interested in representing the party at the polls were murdered, allegedly by members of rival groupings.
As if the loss of votes were not enough, the party faces further divisions in the coming weeks if it goes ahead with plans to compel certain elected councillors to vacate their seats after the election.
This followed the ANC’s failure to field “the right candidates” for the local elections.
If that persists, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would be compelled to hold by-elections.
After no party achieved a majority in 66 municipalities (so-called hung councils) ANC is looking at coalitions with smaller parties.
The governing party’s poor performance could be seen coming. It went into the polls limping.
For an organisation to head to elections with its Secretary-General suspended was always going to be nightmarish.
Elias “Ace” Magashule has been suspended from that key position since May, pending the outcome of court proceedings in which he has been charged with corruption, theft, fraud and money laundering.
He denies the charges as trumped up.
Corruption has dented the image of the ANC, a development that has contributed to its rejection by voters. The scourge has escalated to coincide with the outbreak of COVID-19.
Party members have been fingered in the most infuriating of the scandals that have emerged from the government’s handling of the crisis.
The ANC, formed in 1912, has also prevailed over a struggling economy highlighted by growing youth unemployment.
The prevailing sentiment leading to voter apathy was that of despair.
A total of 12,3 million South Africans voted out of a registered total of 26,1 million voters.
Economic performance is at among its lowest levels and unemployment is at its highest. It hit a record 34,4 percent in the second quarter of 2021, equating to 7,8 million jobless South Africans.
As the ANC was hosting its event on Monday, the beleaguered power utility, Eskom ,announced more power cuts.
It escalated load shedding to “Stage 4” until at least Saturday. That entails three power cuts per day, each lasting two-and-a-half hours.
Entrepreneur, Nkululeko Ngubane, pointed out this was at the detriment of reviving the ailing economy.
“And how do we encourage industrialisation, especially in the textile sector when you just implement and escalate these load shedding stages at short notice?” he quipped.
Ngubane accused Eskom of “really messing up our small businesses.”
Eskom is one of the under-performing public entities ravaged by graft under years of State Capture.
Ramaphosa said the situation with Eskom was “complex.”
“One of our biggest risks is that we rely on a single electricity generator,” he said.
South Africans have in recent days reacted with anger.
Discussing coalitions at the ANC event in Soweto, Ramaphosa said his party would not enter into alliances to resolve hung councils at “at all costs.”
“If we must be in opposition, we will be in opposition,” he said.
At the frequency at which it is losing grip, it would not be foolhardy to forecast the ANC as an opposition, in national government.
The next general election is set for 2024.
– CAJ News