30 Years of Black Rule: What the British think about South Africa’s elections – My Analysis


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THE day has come and, being dutiful citizens, you will by now have cast your votes and are perhaps eagerly waiting for the results to come trickling in. And with good reason: South Africa, it is said, is “poised at a crossroads”. We expats here in the UK know this because the British press have driven home the point with some emphasis in the weeks prior to the general election.

The coverage has been extensive. One reason for this is the appeal of round numbers; the media are suckers for multiples of ten. An election, then, 30 years after the first in our democracy, is a handy prism through which to cast a leery eye and unpack for their readers, be they the elite of Bournemouth, the former army officers of Tunbridge Wells or the climate activists of Islington, the steady decline of both the ANC and the country’s economic prospects.

It has been a simple matter to trace a line from 1994 to the present and detail how the hope, optimism and relative prosperity of Nelson Mandela’s presidency had been squandered over the years. Commentators have been spoilt for choice. Thabo Mbeki’s loopy conspiracy theories on HIV blocked the rollout of much-needed antiretroviral drugs, worsening the Aids crisis that claimed more than 300 000 lives. Corruption became endemic under Jacob Zuma, growth stagnated, crime soared and “state capture” entered the global kleptocrat lexicon as the Guptas hollowed out the fiscus. Cyril Ramaphosa entered office promising to clean up government but instead became embroiled in his own embarrassing scandals. And so it goes, the rot endures.

That’s the easy part. The difficulty, though, is explaining the nature of this “crossroads” that the country is poised to enter.

All the polls — “the junk food of journalism”, as one analyst here put it — suggest support for the ruling party would fall way below 50 per cent today. The latest figures from the Social Research Foundation put this support slightly above 40 per cent. “The ANC will still be running the country on Thursday,” the Observer’s Steve Bloomfield reported at the weekend, “but if the polls are right, it will be in a coalition.” And therein lay the problem.

With support around the 40 per cent mark, it seems unlikely that the ANC will be able to form a partnership with any of the minnows, like the Patriotic Alliance or Patricia de Lille’s GOOD. This scenario, along with other post-election outcomes, was examined in some detail by the Institute of Race Relations CEO Dr John Endres and researcher Anlu Keeve and published in Politicsweb on Monday.

If, however, the ANC is pushed into a coalition, it has three choices of a likely partner: the EFF, Jacob Zuma’s MP Party or the DA. All three come with “issues”. A partnership with the Redshirts, who insist that Floyd “VBS Mutual Bank” Shivambu be made finance minister in such a coalition, would see the rand immediately plummet against the dollar. Further blathering about land expropriation and nationalising the banks would bring on the coveted parity with Venezuela and Cuba most pronto.

A partnership with Convict Number One’s raggedy arsed mob is also unlikely. As Bloomfield explains, “How can [the ANC] do a deal with Zuma, a man who it now freely admits perpetrated one of the biggest corruption scandals of any government anywhere in the world?”

Unfortunately, foreign commentators like Bloomfield do ignore the troubling fact — just as Squirrel and his chums hope we all do — that all this corruption stems directly from ANC policy. If there was a conspiracy here it wasn’t one involving “apartheid functionaries” and “counter-revolutionaries”, as Mbeki has claimed, but rather one of silence as the party blithely ignored the feeding frenzy that came with cadre deployment.

Which leaves the DA. Although a “sensible” choice, it is also problematic, at least in the eyes of the international media, as it is regarded as a largely centrist, pro-Western liberal “white” organisation catering for “white interests”. This image of the party trumps its notable governance successes, and accordingly is glibly labelled racist.

There are reports, though, of “pragmatists” within the ranks of the ANC who would regard the DA as being the more desirable alliance partner. If, of course, it came to that. One hope is that, in choosing an alliance partner, these so-called pragmatists came to blows with those comrades opting for deals with the populists. And the more severe the blows, the better. A riven ruling party, if anything, would be rather fun to behold. But we shall see…


Writing in The Times, the columnist Roger Boyes uses the election to take issue with Pretoria’s “false friends” in the Brics partnership. “The general election in South Africa,” he argues, “is being treated by western countries both as a sentimental milestone — remember Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid Rainbow Nation? What happened to the glory days of 1994? — and as part of a continuing lament about the poor governance of the continent.”

While this is “largely fair criticism”, Boyes suggests it overlooks geopolitical undercurrents and how the ANC was “flattered into strategic alignment with some of the most dodgy autocrats on the world stage, and pressed into service as a vital bridge to the global south to mobilise opposition to western order”. The ANC’s partnerships here, he claims, put the country “on a hiding to nothing”:

“China, the great engine of growth, is slowing, while Vladimir Putin’s main contribution to the continent is the export of ruthless mercenaries. The illusion that these powers can help African populations escape poverty and illiteracy is just that, a soap bubble. The full democratisation of South Africa can only come through the patient construction and defence of accountable institutions, an atmosphere of open debate, a solid legal framework that reassures investors, and reliable partnerships with democracies.”

However, and moving from a conservative British commentator to a South African one on the left, comes a claim that the unravelling of the political order in the fabled Rainbow Nation is symptomatic of an emerging global trend. Benjamin Fogel writes in The New Statesman that the election “represents more than a watershed moment for Africa’s most industrialised economy or a depressing referendum on the state of its democracy: it provides a case study in the politics of de-development, a phenomenon hardly confined to the tip of Africa”.

“De-development,” Fogel explains, “refers to the process when countries, rather than experiencing economic growth, improving living standards, better infrastructure and the emergence of a more cohesive society, regress and become poorer, less educated and more insecure, measured in the relative decline of basic services and quality of life.”

This decline in material conditions also leads to the suppression of personal freedoms as the politics of de-development favour strategies that ensure access to diminishing resources “through exclusion by racial, ethnic or other forms of group identification”. De-development in South Africa is no accident, Fogel argues, but is the result of a political project — namely, state capture — that shovelled billions of dollars intended to modernise infrastructure and revitalise a declining manufacturing sector into the hands of a criminal elite.

As for the ruling party, it is practically useless, having reached a point where its failures have far outweighed its achievements in power, and it may not have the vision or the capacity to improve matters. Fogel writes:

“The ANC of 2024 has devolved into an array of mafia-like factions that strive to turn political power into profit. The type of corruption that predominates in South Africa is not, as they say in Brazil, that of ‘rouba mas faz’ (‘he robs but gets things done’) that at least provides some developmental and redistributive benefits. It is the type of parasite that destroys the body of the host. While the ANC and most other political parties have a vision of a state that is capable of delivering growth and redistribution, the reality is that state capacity has reached a point in which even the most basic tasks of governance – providing water, electricity, public transport and a modicum of public security – cannot be achieved.”

Simply put, it is these “mafia” factions and criminal interests who claim to act on behalf of the majority of South Africans that must be dealt with. It is a depressing thought that such action won’t come anytime soon.

While most foreign correspondents based in Johannesburg are quick to note the glaring inequalities that are evident while humping the Sandton-Alexandra trail, some even go so far as wonder why it is that a ruling party responsible for decades of such maladministration and corruption is still in power after 30 years.

The answers they give are distressing. The ANC, it would appear, is not just a political party, it is a former liberation movement, and this comes with all sorts of emotional and historic baggage about loyalty for the freedom won for the masses and so on. That certainly may the case for older South Africans, but not for the so-called “born frees” who just haven’t bothered to register to vote.

According to political analyst Professor Richard Calland, around 13.7 million eligible voters did not register, with most of them — eight million — below the age of 30. He told the BBC, “They have turned their backs on our young democracy. The assumption is that they have lost hope, feeling economically excluded and seeing no viable opposition.”

This was borne out by a 29-year-old Soweto resident, Keabetswe Maleka, who was explained to the Beeb’s Africa Daily podcast that he wouldn’t be voting, not because of bad public services, but simply because he is unemployed. “I’m looking for a job,” he said. “Nothing is happening.”

Other election news

A letter arrives on embossed House of Commons stationery. My local MP expresses delight at my presence on the electoral roll and undertakes to assist me with any difficulties I may have. This is kind of him, but he then warns that “if you are caught with a knife you will spend time behind bars”. The confusion and perhaps schizoid tone is understandable. He is a Tory and, if we’re to believe the polls, will more than likely be looking for a new job in July. Even so, I’m alarmed that I would be regarded as a suspected criminal.

But then knife crime is on the rise in the UK and has been variously described by commentators as a “plague”, a “tsunami” and a “scourge”. So much so that Victorinox, manufacturers of the Swiss army knife, is now designing a range of the iconic pocket tool without blades. This, according to the Guardian, is in “response to an increasing number of countries imposing bans or restrictions on carrying knives”.

Victorinox’s decision does seem a little odd, and possibly a case of the innocent being punished for the sins of the wicked. The weapon of choice in most knife crimes is either a machete or the so-called “zombie knife”, a large bladed weapon with a serrated edge, but seldom if ever a pocket knife. The company produces some 10 million pocket tools a year. There are about 400 different models to choose from, including one that boasts 73 functions. They all have at least one blade — although nothing remotely resembling a panga or a combat knife. My own modest one, which lives on my key ring, has about ten functions, the most useful being the bottle opener and the corkscrew. And I’ll give up the tool when they pry it from my cold dead hands.

Lastly, the results!

A lot of the election predictions appear, for obvious reasons, to be rather vague and err on the side of caution. The poll figures are couched in phrases with such qualifiers as “in the region of”, “thereabouts”, “not much more than” and “perhaps below an anticipated margin of…” How refreshing then to come across a forecast that is not afraid to dole out its predictions with such precision as that done by Krutham, the investment analysts. And with decimal points, too. That said, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the following:

National Assembly: ANC 44.8 per cent (down 50 seats from 230); DA 22.7 per cent (up seven seats to 91); EFF 9.8 per cent (down four seats from 44); MKP 7.7 per cent (31 seats); Inkatha Freedom Party four per cent (up two seats from 14); and Freedom Front Plus 2.3 per cent (down one seat from ten). Those are the major parties. The smaller parties’ results (paltry, to say the least) are also available on the Krutham website.

And the top four parties in each of the provinces:

Eastern Cape: ANC 62.9 per cent; DA 17 per cent; EFF 8.1 per cent; and United Democratic Movement three per cent.

Free State: ANC 56.9 per cent; DA 19.5 per cent; EFF 14 per cent; and FF+ 5.5 per cent.

Gauteng: ANC 34.9 per cent; DA 27 per cent; EFF 13.3 per cent; and MKP seven per cent.

KwaZulu-Natal: ANC 33.1 per cent; MKP 23 per cent; DA 18.7 per cent; and IFP 17.5 per cent.

Limpopo: ANC 70.6 per cent; EFF 16.5 per cent; DA seven per cent; and FF+ 2.3 per cent.

Mpumalanga: ANC 60.2 per cent; EFF 12.3 per cent; DA 11.5 per cent; and MKP nine per cent.

Northern Cape: ANC 51.7 per cent; DA 27 per cent; EFF 11.9 percent; and FF+ four per cent.

North-West: ANC 57.3 per cent; EFF 20 per cent; DA 12.8 per cent; and FF+ 5.5 per cent.

Western Cape: DA 51 per cent; ANC 21.6 per cent; Patriotic Alliance 5.1 per cent; and GOOD 4.7 per cent.

Source: https://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/what-the-poms-think-of-our-polls?utm_source=Politicsweb+Daily+Headlines&utm_campaign=ae924593c0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2024_05_29_05_37&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_-ae924593c0-%5BLIST_EMAIL_ID%5D

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