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The ANC’s slow decline
August 9, 2016, 12:24 pm

The decline of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa started in 2009 when President Jacob Zuma won the presidential elections with 65.9 per cent of the votes, compared with the two-thirds majority win by his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

In his second term, support for the ANC declined further when Zuma won by 62.16 per cent.

Local government elections are held every five years, and generally two years after the national elections. This is a time when South Africans elect members of their district, metropolitan and municipal councils.

Political analysts had expected a further decline in ANC support in 2016 but very few people expected the ruling party to win by just 53.9 per cent – a significant decline when compared with the 2011 local government elections which it won by a whopping 61.95 per cent.

And the ANC’s national campaign showed some cracks this past April when it failed to fill the 46,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Despite an improvement in rally attendance closer to Election Day, growing dissatisfaction with delivery of services, disputes over the demarcation of municipal borders and the naming of Thoko Didiza as the mayoral candidate for the city of Tshwane in the northern Guateng province were some of the main issues that clouded the ANC’s election campaign.

Protests increase

According to Municipal IQ, a specialised local governments data and intelligence organization that collects data on service delivery protests against municipalities, South Africa had 70 service delivery protests from January 2016 to the end of April.

If protests continue at the same rate, it is projected that there would be about 210 service delivery protests in 2016.

In 2014, South Africa saw 191 service delivery protests, and in 2015, protests declined to 164. The main reason for these protests is the dissatisfaction with the delivery of basic municipal services such as electricity, water and toilets, particularly in informal settlements.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s unemployment rate at just under 27 per cent is at its highest level since 2008, when the new inclusive measurement of employment was implement. Actually, if discouraged workers are included in the overall jobs assessment, the unemployment rate is closer to 40 per cent.

Lack of housing, poor infrastructure, high levels of corruption and cadre deployment mixed in with the above high unemployment figures have all added to the growing dissatisfaction, especially in poor areas.

Calls for boycott

In Limpopo, a province in the north of South Africa, residents of the town of Vuwani called for a stay-away from the elections – many residents chose to spend the day at the local sports day instead of casting their vote.

This is because the Municipal Demarcation Board decided to incorporate Vuwani into a new municipality. Residents of Vuwani resisted the merger by burning 13 schools and shutting down 50. Furthermore, 40,000 residents of Vuwani were registered to vote, but only a little over 1500 residents voted.

But the last major protest before the elections came about following the announcement by the ANCs national executive council (NEC) that Thoko Didiza – and not ANC leaders Kgosientso Ramokgopa and Mapiti Matsena – would be the party’s candidate for the mayoral race in Tshwane.

Some Tshwane residents argued that NEC member Didiza was an outsider who resided in the city detached from people in the townships. Violent protests ensued in reaction to Didiza’s appointment, but instead of heeding to the people’s call, the ANC continued to fully back their choice.

Vital elections

The 2016 local government elections were always going to be highly contested. This was the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) first local elections, since the party was launched only three years ago.

Hungry to gain voters especially among disgruntled citizens, the EFF had an aggressive campaign which spoke to the marginalised. They promised more jobs, free electricity and water for the poor, the abolishment of informal settlements, and the creation of new municipalities in order to speed up service delivery.

These elections were also important for the Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party, which unseated the ANC in the Western Cape province in 2009 – the only province not controlled by the ANC.

The DA emerged from the anti-apartheid Progressive Party which was founded in 1959. After merging with a few smaller political parties, it changed its name to the DA.

The DA has for years struggled with its image in post-apartheid South Africa. It is often viewed with suspicion, and some still see it as serving the interests of white people.

However, it’s new and ambitious black leader, Mmusi Maimane, is trying to change this image which, quite frankly, is holding the political party back.

The DA’s campaign was very targeted. It focused on the regions where the ANC was most vulnerable such as the city of Tshwane (where the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria, is located), and the Nelson Mandela Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

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