Political Watch

South Africa heading for new political dispensation?

ANC to lose Gauteng?
Johannesburg-Gauteng-Province-65128.jpg

South Africa might be nearing the end of being a classical unitary state with an all-powerful central government, come election 2019.

The prospect of the African National Congress (ANC) losing its absolute majority at national level in the next election, with a coalition government the likely result, is increasingly regarded as a strong possibility – even from within the ANC.

However, even if the ANC retains support above 50% at national level, the pattern seen in last year’s municipal election – the ANC losing control over especially big metropolitan local governments – has become very likely to repeat itself at provincial level in 2019.

Especially in South Africa’s most densely populated province, Gauteng, the ANC is looking increasingly vulnerable. It already lost control over the two biggest metro’s in the province, Tshwane and Jo’burg, to Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition governments.

This can probably be ascribed to, amongst other, the big concentration of middle class and aspiring middle class voters – also from the majority black population – found in these areas. It is then also interesting to note that these areas have become the vocal point of service delivery protests.

Much of the anger of protesters, over issues like housing, is directed at the ANC and its provincial governments.

In Diepkloof, Soweto, which is part of the Jo’burg metro, protest over housing turned violent when communities demanded that Gauteng Housing MEC, Paul Mashatile addresses them regarding their housing issues.

A community leader, Themba Makhubele, said protesters will camp outside until Mashatile provides answers to their list of questions regarding housing.

“Before you leave today you’re going to get the answers. We’re not going to be patient until Jesus comes,” he said paraphrasing President Jacob Zuma’s once made claim about until when the ANC would govern the country.

The Zuma factor and ethnicity

There can, however, also be some surprises waiting for the ANC in the Eastern Cape, as the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro proved in last year’s municipal elections. There are also growing sings that the image of President Zuma is hurting the party in that province. His “anointed” successor and ex-wife,  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma seems to have little success with her campaign in the province.

Any perception of victory by the so-called Zuma-faction at the end of year elective conference could back-fire on the party in the 2019 elections in that province. And, another indisputable fact of the South African political reality is that ethnicity and tribal affiliations are never far from the surface.

In some of the smaller provinces, like Limpopo, North-West (once regarded as a Zuma stronghold) and the Free State, the combination of these two factors, the Zuma image and ethnicity, might also influence the outcome of the election.

There can be no doubt that Mr Zuma is increasingly taking on the image of a so-called lame-duck president.

Long campaign waiting

There is still at least 20 months left until the 2019 election and much can, and will, happen before then that will impact on the election results.

For one, pressure is mounting from within and outside the ANC and its alliance partners, the SA Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation Cosatu, for a judicial inquiry into state capture based on former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report.

Such an inquiry, should it materialise, will bring new pressure of its own on the ANC and its alliance. Even if Mr Zuma himself has vacated the scene, there are other key players in ANC that are likely to come under scrutiny.

The removal of Mr Zuma before his term of office ends, might calm the tide running against the ANC somewhat, but if all the damage can be repaired in time for the election is doubtful.

Those calling for the judicial inquiry now, can hardly abandon it if Mr Zuma is indeed removed since it involves much more than just his personal role in state capture.

Some damage looks inevitable. His successor will need all the time he or she could get for some damage control.

There is also the waiting vote of no confidence in parliament, which whether a secret vote or not, set to bring tension in the ANC. It leaves members of the caucus who in public called on Mr Zuma to resign, in an impossible position. If it should be an open vote, their only option is to abstain.

Then there are growing signs of tension between ANC MPs and members of the executive, as best illustrated by the so-called “Molefe-gate.”

To this can be added tensions between the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and its so-called veterans and stalwarts, who after some time calling for Mr Zuma to be removed, will now petition the NEC in a letter on the matter and again calling for a national consultative conference before next month’s policy conference. And, there a number of potential embarrassing court cases lurking, amongst other, over government’s nuclear built programme.

Dramatic development

During this week, there were indications that a dramatic development might be at hand, which could change the political playing field into a whole new ball game. Amidst growing rumours that Mr Zuma might be removed by the NEC at a meeting this coming weekend, and ANC MPs finally finding their voices in the Molefe-affair, the rand’s position dramatically improved on currency markets.

In the words of Alec Hogg of Biznews: “There are only two rational explanations. One is the SA Reserve Bank is bolstering the currency to offset the knock when that second downgrade shoe drops. The other is that someone knows Zuma will fall soon, triggering the end of his destructive network of patronage.”

Uncertainty is will remain the only certainty on the SA political scene for some time to come. 

Implications

There is still the possibility that the other favourite presidential candidate besides Dlamini-Zuma, deputy-president Cyril Ramaphosa, could succeed in his campaign for a single “slate” for indorsement at December’s elective conference – as unlikely as it seems at this stage.

And, other possibilities of dramatic developments, like the one indicate above, might still improve the prospects of the ANC. It might still deliver a considerably reduced majority to the ANC at national level.

However, it is unlikely to be the case in all eight of the provinces the ANC presently control. For that, the anger in many communities just run to deep – as illustrated Wednesday when a mayor at Ditsobola in the North-West Province was taken hostage by a local community. 

If the strategy of post-election coalition government, driven hard by the DA with pledged support from the Economic Freedom Fighters, succeed, the South African state-landscape could look considerably more like a federal state, rather than a pure unitary one – a dispensation that might serve South-Africa with its highly diverse population much better than the present one.

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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