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South Africa: Voters back the struggle for democracy

The ANC and Jacob Zuma overcame all problems to win a fifth five-year term for the liberation movement, writes JOHN HAYLETT

SOUTH Africans have had their say and their overwhelming verdict has been support for the African National Congress and its President Jacob Zuma.

Many complain about service delivery or corruption that undoubtedly exists.

Others are disturbed by the 2012 police massacre of striking miners at Marikana or by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on large sums of public money spent on Zuma’s home at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

A few former comrades have even urged voters to back smaller parties as a demand for ANC reform.

But the ANC and Zuma overcame all these problems to win a fifth five-year term for the liberation movement forever identified with the struggle for democracy.

The ANC national vote was down a couple of percentage points over the 65.9 per cent it enjoyed in 2009, but this is hardly surprising.

The longer democracy exists in South Africa — not simply five-yearly ballots but a lively media and vibrant civil society — the more that alternative approaches come to the fore and the greater the tendency for groups and interests contained within the liberation movement to break away to plough their own furrow.

Most notable in this election was the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) outfit of “commander in chief” Julius Malema, the former ANC Youth League leader expelled from the ANC for bringing it into disrepute.

Malema developed from a firebrand infamous for proclaiming his readiness to “kill for Zuma” to the president’s most vocal enemy.

He is adept at presenting himself as spokesman for the dispossessed and alienated, whether townships awaiting basic amenities — drinking water, electricity, houses or flush toilets — or the Marikana miners.

The EFF commander in chief rails against capitalism and links between ANC notables and big business, but he is rich himself, having used his political links in the ANC to have public service contracts awarded to companies aligned with him.

This corrupt arrangement was denounced as “tenderpreneurship” by the Communist Party, which warns constantly of the dangers posed by EFF.

SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin accused the EFF at a huge May Day rally in Ekuhurleni of making unrealistic promises to workers.

“The Hitlers and Mussolinis of the world rose to prominence, demagogically talking about socialism but, when they were in power, the massacred the trade union movement. They massacred the working class movement.

“The EFF practises the same kind of demagogy that we are also seeing played out on the platinum belt,” Cronin declared.

While the EFF has won around 6 per cent of the national vote, making it the third political force, it will lead the opposition in the Limpopo provincial assembly, after gaining 10.3 per cent to the ANC 79 per cent.

It could yet do the same in North West, the scene of Marikana and a three-month-long pay strike led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the platinum belt, where it has polled 13.2 per cent to 67 per cent for ANC.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) can be satisfied with retaining Western Cape and scoring about 22 per cent nationally.

It has detached sections of African middle strata from the ANC as well some alienated township youth, but its solid base remains among national minorities, especially those defending gains made under apartheid.

The DA counts on business to supply its finance. It also deploys “liberation struggle” rhetoric to convey a false impression of playing an active role in the fierce battles to end apartheid.

However, it will regret failing to capitalise on township discontent and internal ANC divisions to triumph in Gauteng, the country’s most populous and proletarian province that takes in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

On the plus side, DA has displaced Gatsha Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party as the main opposition in Kwa-Zulu-Natal where the tribalist party, the main force in the province in 1994, has been swamped by the ANC.

Buthelezi is not the only media-feted superstar to crash and burn.

Mosiuoa Lekota, whose Congress of the People, composed of ANC defectors upset at Zuma’s replacing of Thabo Mbeki as president, scored over a million votes in 2009 but has registered barely a tenth of that this time round.

Mamphela Ramphele, widow of Steve Biko and former World Bank managing director, accepted a DA offer in January to be its presidential candidate but then pulled out.

Her Agang SA (Build SA) party could win just one seat or may fall short of the 50,000 total needed for that.

British supporters of Peter Taaffe’s Committee for Workers International hoping to see a breakthrough for their Workers and Socialist Party franchise must content themselves with a return of something over 8,000 votes nationally (0.05 per cent).

The SACP views the ANC election victory as “an overwhelming mandate to pursue our state-led, inclusive growth and job creation programmes.”

It called for “a radical second phase of our democratic revolution” to be pursued with greater rigour in line with the ANC Mangaung conference decisions. 

The party said that this must include “strengthening of state intervention into the economy to ensure job creation, reindustrialisation, greater beneficiation of our natural resources, a sustained public sector-led infrastructure programme … and land reform that is focused on sustainable livelihoods and productive activity by those who work the land.”


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