Movers and shakers invoke the gees of ’94


Movers and shakers invoke the gees of ’94

The ANC may just reach 50% in next year's general election, but its chances of retaining KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are slim, while the DA is firmly in control in the Western Cape. With the three key provinces in opposition hands, SA's political dynamics will fundamentally change – a process that has already gained momentum, writes MAX DU PREEZ.


THE rallying cry on Songezo Zibi's Rise Mzansi T-shirt is the story of the upcoming election: 2024 is our 1994.

Meaning: it's time for a new beginning. 

Objectively speaking, the ANC deserves to lose the support of most voters. It's not a political statement that we are engulfed by corruption, mismanagement and infrastructure collapse; it's an empirical fact.

About four out of 10 people who can work are unemployed. There are more hungry and malnourished people today than in 1994, according to official statistics. Excluding Cape Town, the metros are falling apart.

The glue of ethnic and historical loyalty to the former liberation movement is increasingly losing its grip, especially among urban residents.

The ANC's election machinery has been formidable since 1994 — more effective than any other ANC endeavour. So, as it looks today, there's probably a 50/50 chance that the party can retain its parliamentary majority.

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But with a small majority and loss of control over the key provinces, South Africa's political dynamics will change fundamentally.

I think we will be able to unequivocally state by this time next year that the ANC has completely lost its decades-long hegemony and will never get it back.

The Social Research Foundation (SRF) recently conducted a survey in KwaZulu-Natal and found that less than 40% of voters will vote for the ANC.

The IFP is growing, as recent by-election results have confirmed: in uMhlatuze, the ANC's support dropped from 64% to 39% last week.

According to the SRF survey, 26% of voters in KZN prefer the IFP as the provincial governing party, while 20% prefer it as the national governing party.

The DA's support in KZN stands at 20%, and this figure increases as voter turnout decreases.

The unanswered question is whether the passing of Mangosuthu Buthelezi will make the IFP less attractive to KZN voters. The current leader, Velenkosini Hlabisa, is not known for his charisma.

According to the SRF survey, only 5% of voters indicated that they want the EFF as the provincial government in KZN.

The IFP and the DA are key players in the Multiparty Charter that could potentially take over KZN from the ANC. The fierce propaganda war launched by the ANC leadership in KZN against the DA's premier candidate, Chris Pappas, is an indication of how nervous the ANC is about the election in the province.

In the 2019 election, the ANC could secure only 51% of the vote in Gauteng, and ActionSA has grown significantly in the province since then, while the DA has remained stable.

The ongoing disputes between the DA and ActionSA, particularly regarding the crisis in Tshwane, do not help build voter confidence in the Multiparty Charter, but it seems the relationship between the IFP and the DA is healthier.

The major unknown is whether Rise Mzansi will be a significant factor in the election. The party's People's Convention, “a festival of solutions", begins today, after which it will launch an election campaign.

Songezo Zibi is a deep thinker, someone I know to be a person of integrity. His analysis of the South African body politic is sound and incisive. On top of that, he has gathered a large group of really good people around him.

However, I suspect the election campaign will be dominated by cheap populism. Wild promises, intense smear campaigns, insults, and the race card will be thrown around liberally.

We're already seeing it with Panyaza Lesufi, the premier of Gauteng,  jumping on the xenophobia bandwagon, and with ANC leaders increasingly invoking the apartheid era. As for the EFF, well, the EFF is the EFF.

This is not the ideal environment for Rise Mzansi to thrive. The party and its leader are the antithesis of cheap, divisive populism. Rationality, good policies and innovative solutions will have little impact in a populist uproar. And time is not on Rise Mzansi's side: the election must be held in less than 10 months.

Rise Mzansi has (wisely in my opinion) decided not to join the coalition of the DA, ActionSA, IFP and FF+. But if the Multiparty Charter remains intact, Rise Mzansi will need it, and the coalition will need Rise Mzansi if the battle against the ANC/EFF is to be successful.

In my opinion, Zibi would be the natural leader of such a coalition. It cannot be John Steenhuisen, Hlabisa, Herman Mashaba or Pieter Groenewald. Zibi has enough gravitas and minimal baggage.

There is another initiative underway that we should not underestimate either: Convergence4SA, which held its first summit/workshop yesterday. It is the brainchild of, among others, Theuns Eloff and Mbali Ntuli (a former senior DA leader). (Also see here what Piet Croucamp writes about Ntuli and Convergence4SA).

If I understand Convergence4SA correctly, it wants to become a kind of coordinator/administrator of all the current democratic initiatives. There are many: Network for a New Beginning, the Defend our Democracy Campaign, United SA Movement, Dialogue for Action, the Ground Work Collective, the Center for Public Witness, Operation Watershed and various churches and faith organizations.

Between the Multiparty Charter, Rise Mzansi, Mmusi Maimane's Build One SA, Convergence4SA and all their participating organisations, there is momentum building that might just make 2024 a remarkable revival like 1994.


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