Ruling party to remain dominant for the next five years
Twenty years after Freedom Day in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has won overwhelmingly in the fifth national democratic elections held inside the country. The ANC, which has dominated South African politics for decades even prior to coming to power two decades ago in the first non-racial democratic elections, officially received 62.5 percent of the vote.
Following way behind the ANC is the Democratic Alliance (DA) headed by Helen Zille, the former mayor of Cape Town, which gained 22 percent of the vote. This represents an increase of five percentage points since 2009 but leaving it one-third of the support earned by the ANC.
Perhaps the most significant development in the national poll was the performance of the newly-formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema, the ousted president of the ANC Youth League. The EFF won 6 percent of the vote and is now the third party behind the DA and the ANC.
The outcome of the elections illustrated that the ANC retains the support of the majority of the South African electorate. Efforts by the DA as well as other political forces were largely unsuccessful in making a significant dent in the ANC’s margin of political authority within the National Assembly or Parliament and the national government.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula, which administers the poll, declared on May 10 that “I hereby, on behalf of the Electoral Commission, declare the 2014 national and provincial elections free and fair. As we celebrate two decades of democracy and conclude the 2014 elections, we can affirm democracy is alive and well and thriving in our land.” (southafrica.info, May 12)
What the Vote Means for the Immediate Political Future of South Africa
Overall there were 29 political parties which contested the elections but only 13 won seats in the National Assembly. The ANC will lead with 249 seats out of a total of 400.
This represents a loss of 15 seats since the 2009 elections where the ANC won over 65 percent of the vote. Following the ANC in the National Assembly is the DA with 89 seats and coming in third is the EFF with 25 seats.
In the provinces the ANC won a majority in all of them with the exception of the Western Cape which was retained by the DA. In the North West Province the ANC won with 25 representatives but the EFF became the official opposition in the provincial government but with only five seats just ahead of the DA with four.
It is within the North West Province that the platinum sector of the mining industry is based. In this area continuing unrest among the mineworkers and the rival organizing efforts of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was expected to signal a huge drop in support for the ANC.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), is no longer the majority labor organization in the so-called platinum belt having taken second place to AMCU.
The Aug. 16, 2012 massacre of 34 mineworkers by the provincial police sent shockwaves throughout the South African body politic and the world. Since this time, the intervention of Julius Malema has won him support within the area which was reflected in the EFF becoming the second most popular party in the elections in the North West Province.
AMCU did not appear to have an electoral strategy for the 2014 elections. Its members have been on strike for months in the platinum belt in the North West Province but the bosses have remained intransigent and are refusing to reach an agreement to settle the industrial action.
The ANC maintained a strong electoral campaign on the ground within all the provinces. Since it was the party that led the national liberation struggle for decades, most South Africans remain loyal to its history and political legacy.
With respect to the refusal of the leadership of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to support the re-election of the ANC, Irvin Jim, the secretary general of the largest COSATU affiliate, says that he will form a worker’s party in the coming period to challenge the ANC for their neo-liberal policies that negatively impact workers.
Nonetheless, such a party was not able to be built for the recently-held May 7 elections and it remains to be seen what the outcome of the stated NUMSA project will be in light of the fact that the ANC maintains strong support among the organized working class.
A divisive conflict within COSATU over the status of Secretary General Vavi Zwelinzima was resolved prior to the elections with the intervention of ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had served as the first leader of NUM during the 1980s. The South African Communist Party (SACP) had called for the closing of ranks within the working class in support of a resounding ANC victory.
The three percentage point decline within the ANC’s margin of victory in the national elections and the rise by five percent for the DA as well as the emergence of the EFF as a third party, reveals some erosion of support for the ruling party. Nevertheless, how long this trend will continue remains to be seen.
In the previous 2009 elections, the Congress of the People (COPE), founded by disgruntled ANC officials, appeared to emerge as a possible future challenger to the ruling party. Soon enough COPE began to suffer from factionalism and is on the verge of collapse with a large section of its Assembly representatives resigning and rejoining the ANC.
The performance of the EFF and the DA in the National Assembly and within the provincial governmental structures will largely determine their potential for growth. At the same time the viability of the South African economy must be addressed by the ANC in the near future.
South African Political Economy and the World Capitalist Crisis
Issues raised by the EFF and the DA related to the vitality of the national economy drew a small percentage of support away from the ANC. With the South African economy remaining well within the world capitalist system it will be difficult for the problems of unemployment, land reform and poverty to be adequately addressed.
Although the EFF was castigated by the ANC and the SACP in its advocacy of nationalization of the mining and agricultural industries, saying that their demand for public control was not class based and would only benefit a new layer of African bourgeois interests, the question of land reform and nationalization of industry must be addressed by the government in order for the ANC to remain in power over the long-term.
The combined labor power of the South African working class must be harnessed in order for the entire transformation of the economy to take place.
Major changes are already underway on the part of the mining bosses inside the country. The owners of Lonmin and Amplats, two of the major mining firms, have threatened major re-structuring and consequently lay-offs in light of the ongoing labor unrest in the North West Province and other areas of the country.
As a result of these uncertainties, the value of the rand, the national currency, has dropped significantly and only rose slightly due to the smooth outcome of the poll on May 7.
In regard to the role of the DA, which represents a more right-wing approach to neo-liberal economic policy and seeks to reinstitute key aspects of the system of class privilege that remained unquestioned officially under apartheid, the party is attempting to recruit more Africans into its ranks.
The inability of the ANC government to create full employment over the last two decades provides a political avenue for the DA to make false promises of job creation which can never be achieved under capitalism in the modern period.
Consequently, the ANC has to move to the left in order to regain its loss support and to ensure the goal of the national democratic revolution as enunciated in the Freedom Charter and other theoretical documents. The party is in a good position in the aftermath of the elections to resolve its internal disagreements in order to focus on the political task ahead in the next five years.
Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.