It is said that you can’t solve a problem until you admit you have one. This is the message the ANC leaders seemed to be missing in their initial response to the party’s dismal performance in last week’s municipal elections. For the first time, support for the ANC fell to below 60%.
In the battle for 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. Compared with the results of the 2011 municipal elections, North West dropped by 13.56 percentage points, Free State by 9.21 and Mpumalanga by 6.5. Only KwaZulu-Natal grew by a tiny margin of 0.18%.
The ANC’s initial response to this disaster was spin, with the party first celebrating the “unprecedented 14 million votes” cast for it. It claimed this was 54% of the national vote‚ and “dramatically exceeds numbers recorded in the previous municipal elections”. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe blamed the drop in ANC support on black people not appreciating the value of a vote while other ANC leaders blamed the cold day for people not coming out to vote in townships.
But it appears reality is slowly starting to sink in. The ANC has now admitted that scandals associated with President Jacob Zuma influenced the middle class to ditch the party, especially in the Gauteng metros. Mantashe was quoted as saying Nkandla and the Guptas were sticky issues with middle-class urban voters, while ANC Gauteng leader Paul Mashatile agreed the opposition had exploited scandals involving Zuma.
The question is: if the ANC leadership was aware of this why didn’t they do anything about it, and now they have been punished by urban voters will they finally muster the moral courage to deal with the root cause of the sustained decline in support for Africa’s oldest liberation movement? We doubt it.