Local government elections have come and gone. There are certainly winners and losers, but the biggest victor is democracy. Ironically, it was President Jacob Zuma – the man behind his party’s dismal performance – who hit the nail on the head, saying South Africans were the real victors, and that their will had prevailed.
In his speech, which was disrupted by a group of women protesting against rape at the Independent Electoral Commission’s results centre on Saturday, Zuma said of South African voters: “You have shown the world that South Africa is a thriving democracy where differences of political opinion and diverse political preferences are allowed to flourish.”
For the first time since the dawn of democracy, support for the ANC fell to below 60%. While it is still in control of most municipalities, it is unquestionable that the party has been handed its worst drubbing ever. In a battle for the control of the eight metros, the party only won controlling majorities in Buffalo City, Mangaung and eThekwini. In Gauteng, the party got 44.55% of the vote, the DA 38.37%, and the EFF 11.09%. The ANC failed to get over the 50% mark in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Mogale City, its former strongholds.
That opposition parties are seriously beginning to be a force to be reckoned with is a step in the right direction. We have seen how the arrogance of overly powerful ruling parties on the continent and elsewhere in the world have destroyed their nations.
Since 1994, the majority of the electorate has given the ANC the privilege to govern locally, provincially and nationally. Opposition parties here and all over the world have for years envied the ANC’s grip on power in all three tiers of government. However, the ruling party’s arrogance and intoxication with power plunged the nation into a morass of hopelessness and polarisation. Corruption thrives in an environment in which the ruling party is too powerful and is only accountable to itself, not the voting public.
It was specifically public disenchantment with arrogance and corruption that emboldened the opposition parties, such as Julius Malema’s EFF, who are now kingmakers in many of the metros, including Johannesburg and Tshwane. The ANC only has itself to blame for its poor showing. Prior to the elections, the party was fully aware of the public’s frustration with its inability to address and resolve the nation’s most pressing issues.
Topping the list was its fatally compromised leader, Jacob Zuma, who the ANC was prepared to blindly rally behind, although he was solely behind a steady decline in his party’s fortunes. Last week’s elections had everything to do with Zuma. Endemic corruption, the hallmark of his administration, alienated the public, much to the detriment of his party.
We have previously criticised former ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa for publicly speaking out against corruption only after losing his position in the party’s national executive committee – but regardless of his motives, the issues he is raising are relevant and cannot be ignored. Responding to last week’s polls, Phosa warned his party it would have to act decisively on “the stink of corruption” if it is to rescue itself.
“The masses are not fools. They pass judgment on all of us. They can never be indifferent to corruption and they will repeatedly punish us for it. We have a duty to listen, learn from them and lead properly. The masses are punishing us with the weapon we won for them: the vote,” Phosa told News24.
“The day we confront the scourge of corruption is the day we will rescue the ANC. The day we stop protecting those who are corrupt is the day we’ll rescue the soul of the ANC.”
The wounded ANC ignores the words of wisdom of one of its veterans at its own peril.