14 July, 2013

2014 SA Elections Are Gearing Up!

by Hussein Solomon

I have to admit that I did not bother to vote in the last national election, knowing the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its corrupt members were to be voted into power once again by the unthinking masses. Come 2014 I definitely intend to vote. By all accounts it is shaping up to be an exciting contest with the stakes increasingly high. To the left of the ANC, former ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema has formed a new political platform, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). EFF has much socialist rhetoric such as the nationalization of land, financial institutions and the like. How these patently unconstitutional measures will pass legal muster is anyone’s guess. Whilst the EFF hardly stands a chance of unseating the dominant ANC, the reality here is two-fold. First, the strident nationalist rhetoric of the EFF is already scaring off investors and resulting in spooked markets – already volatile given the woes in the Eurozone – South Africa’s largest trading partner. Second, the EFF also stands a strong chance of wooing the disillusioned youth vote. Youth unemployment in South Africa is over 40% and the strong socialist agenda of the EFF might be appealing to them. Thus, the ANC’s majority might well be eroded by the formation of the EFF.
Photo by Keso S
There are, however, other challenges confronting the ANC. Despite ANC President Jacob Zuma’s convincing win over contenders for the top party post at the Mangaung conference in December last year, the reality is that he remains a tarnished and dividing president. The recent exposures regarding his Nkandla homestead – built at the expense of taxpayers money – is occurring at a time when South African citizens have to engage in belt-tightening given the weakening rand and the sputtering economy. Citizens, even the ANC support base, are in an unforgiving mood towards such predatory behaviour. Why must they belt-tighten whilst the political elite grows ever more profligate with public funds? The weakness of Zuma’s own position within the ANC, could be what triggered him into re-shuffling the cabinet once again – thereby hoping to consolidate his political control. This move, however, might well boomerang on Zuma since to paraphrase former US President Lyndon Johnson, “you now have a situation where an ejected former colleague is now outside the tent pissing in when you want him to be inside the tent pissing out!”

The main political opposition, in the form of the Democratic Alliance (DA), however can hardly seek to exploit the weaknesses in the ANC given their own challenges – governance challenges in the Western Cape which the ANC has been quick to exploit, as well as leadership challenges as the party looks to a post-Helen Zille future and the fact that another liberal political party in the form of Agang seeks to make inroads into the black urban middle class – precisely the constituency the DA needs to win over if it seeks to unseat the electoral juggernaut – that is the ANC.

By all accounts, then, 2014 looks like an interesting election!

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