I wanted to write about the late Reverend Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile, (1944-2016), but I changed my mind. I thought maybe I should write about what is topical and draw from lessons he imparted to me over the past 24 years. We have to learn to accept he is now “home”, as he faithfully said. This responsible intellectual is now home.
It is the responsibility of intellectuals not to be irresponsible or mislead. Some of us have been at pains urging thinkers and analysts to first study data on the local government elections results and not be quick to chew these up opining on irresponsible retail conclusions. The public is given non-nutritious ideas with a monolothic theme as though the subject is typical and not as complex as it is.
A leading electoral politics scholar, Walter Dean Burnham, recognised “class-skewed voter abstention rates” in countries such as South Africa. In SA, this has been the case since 2004. The propertied class are never apathetic. Studies have shown that voter apathy, which the local election saw, is largely seen among the poor.
South Africa’s electoral politics are re-forming; the genesis was the 2002 irresponsible enactment of what was termed “floor-crossing law”, also dubbed “crostituting”.
The effects of this law saw the DP, NNP and tycoon Louis Luyt’s Federal Alliance forming the Democratic Alliance (DA). It also saw the creation of Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats (ID), which was later captured by the DA. Floor-crossing also usurped the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), from which the ID and Themba Godi’s African People’s Convention (APC) emerged.
Floor-crossing was repealed but the practice kept alive by the DA, which continued to capture smaller parties. A 2007 Polokwane ANC conference resolution rightly banned floor-crossing, but the damage was done. The EFF has effectively crossed the floor to the DA as it handed its votes for cushy city council jobs, giving rule legitimacy to minority rule.
The DA and EFF were seen time and again coordinating their parliamentary politics, blocking legislation and co-whippering in the National Assembly. It is not yet clear whether this is an ideological re-alignment of the DA or the EFF is pivoting, since its grand tour to London soliciting UK’s elite support to unseat the ANC. There has been a remarkable change in the EFF’s posture ever since: their stated militant campaign against banks was ominously dropped, but it attacked Russia and Zimbabwe.
As DA, EFF, IFP, UDM and FF-Plus band together in a pro-neoliberal electoral bloc, the question is how to arrest this “crostitution” to restore integrity to voting. One could wait for the bloc to implode on its own – which it would – or legislate for a responsive two-round vote (second-round ballot) in poll results with no clear lead, as these elections have proven. Majority electoral democracy is slowly being suppressed.
After failing to win elections, the EFF has chosen the self-adulating apartheid bedfellows and their former Bantustan leaders as its electoral fellows. The EFF will have to work for the DA’s success so it could claim it as its own.