Alex Mitchley
3 minute read
26 Mar 2014
5:15 pm

Opposition ‘failed to use Nkandla’ as election boost

Alex Mitchley

Opposition parties may have failed in using the Nkandla report for political leverage in the upcoming general elections.

FILE PICTURE: A view of the controversial homestead of President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla on January 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI

Political analyst Daniel Silke has suggested that although damning, the Nkandla report released by  Public Protector Thuli Madonsela last week does not work as a successful politicking tool with elections a mere six weeks away.

Silke believes that the opposition parties did their duty in highlighting the report, but in doing so focused too narrowly on President Jacob Zuma which lets the ANC off the hook.

“Opposition parties made the Nkandla report a referendum about Zuma’s leadership instead of broader ANC issues,” said Silke.
“The bread and butter politics has not seen the level of importance it deserves as political parties have been obsessed with Nkandla.”

Silke also said the ANC has a much larger brand than Zuma, so placing so much emphasis on Zuma would not deter supporters from voting for the ruling party.

“ANC administration have succeeded in areas of service delivery which ensure patronage and voter loyalty. People will overlook the report,” he said.

“Patronage today trumps accountability in South Africa.”

Several opposition parties voiced their opinions of the Nkandla report with United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa describing the findings as an embarrassment of the highest order with the president misleading the public.

The DA and EFF opted for more drastic measures, having laid charges of corruption against the president. The DA has also called for the impeachment of the sitting president.

Silke said that in theory the Nkandla report would be manna from heaven for opposition parties, but that in an immature democracy such as South Africa, the report does not hold as much value.

“A report of this nature would have caused a ruling party in a mature democracy to step down, called a snap election or at the very least call for the sitting president to leave office,” said Silke.

“But we do not have a mature democracy, South Africans do not have the nature to bring down a government using their vote. No precedent in South Africa for voting a sitting party out of power. No ritual to swing votes.”

Silke also believes that the opposition parties are not attractive enough to ANC members looking to change their vote.

“Political choices in South Africa do not suffice for electorates looking for a political home,” he said.

Earlier this month the Public Protector released a report detailing the findings into the investigation into the Nklandla security upgrades.

Mandonsela found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from some of the upgrades, Police Minister Nathi Mthetwa’s conduct was improper and amounted to maladministration and department officials violated procurement processes. Findings also showed that money was spent on non-security resources and that some of the measures taken during upgrades were unlawful.

Silke believes there may be a slight dent in the ANC support as they move to the polls on 7 May, but that the ruling party would not lose a dramatic amount of support.

Opposition parties looking to secure more votes and steer voters away from the ruling party should broaden their message and move away from Nkandla, Silke suggested.