ForeignOpinion

South Africa 2019: Referendum on Ramaphoria?

By Tony Iyare

Pulling Through Its Worst Performance In 25 Years, the African National Congress (ANC) Wins Last Week’s Elections, Underscoring a Full Term for Cyril Ramaphosa in a Pyrrhic Victory that Casts a Slur On Its Reputation, Writes TONY IYARE.

The final tally of the South African election perceived as a referendum on President Cyril Ramaphosa, show the ruling African National Congress (ANC), winning 57.51% of votes cast, its worst performance since the advent of multi-racial election in 1994.

The website of the Electoral Commission revealed that the ANC polled 10,026,047 votes of the 17,668,318 total votes cast, which is less than the 11 million votes won in 2014, underscoring the fact that its popularity is seriously on the wane.

But a full term is assured for President Ramaphosa whose rhetoric on fighting corruption and redistributing choice lands controlled by the one percent White population “without compensation,” still remains a mirage. Ramaphosa, seen as an ally of big business, is called ‘Ramaphoria,’ underpinning the euphoria that saw his emergence as President in 2018, which may now have become extinguished with his seeming prevarication.

Tony Iyare

The biggest opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) got 3,618,992, representing 20.76% of the votes, also lower than the 22.2 per cent or the 4 million votes it garnered in 2014.

However, Julius Malema’s left leaning Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose support is on the rise, clinched the third spot with 1,881,331 votes, representing 10.79 per cent of the votes cast significantly improving on its performance five years ago. In 2014, EFF, a splinter from the ANC got 6.35 percent of the votes.

With 26,779, 025 people registered to vote, turnout was estimated at 65.99 per cent. According to the electoral body, 235,449 votes were voided in the 22,924 of the voting districts captured, out of 22,925.

Eight of the nine provincial legislatures were won by the ANC which polled 68.74 per cent of the votes to reinforce its image as South Africa’s leading political party, leaving the DA and EFF to share 15.73 and 7.84 percent respectively. The EFF retained its position as official opposition in Limpopo and the North West, while simultaneously beating the DA to second place in Mpumalanga. The DA obtained a second place in five provinces won by the ANC.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) for the first time since 2014 beat the DA to second place and grew to 3.38% on a national level. In the Western Cape, the only province not won by the ANC, the DA declined from 59.38% to 55.45%.

The Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) had announced on 20 March 2019 that a record number of 48 parties had registered candidates for the national parliamentary election. This is 19 more parties that contested the 2014 national elections. Some of the parties opted to contest only in the provincial elections.

A total of 14 parties won seats in the national parliament. With the ANC winning 230 majority parliamentary seats followed by the DA and EFF winning 84 and 44 seats respectively, its control of the South African Parliament is assured. The Inkatha Freedom Party and the Freedom Front Plus also won 14 and 10 seats respectively to claim the 4th and 5th position in parliament while the other 18 seats were split amongst 9 parties.

Against the backdrop of the declining performance of the ANC is the rise and rise of Malema’s EFF which garnered 44 seats, almost some geometric leap from the 25 seats it won in its first birth in 2014. The EFF is a splinter party of the ANC that was formed in July 2013 by expelled ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, taking a strong anti-ANC position within its far-left economic platform, such as calling for the expropriation of land without compensation, and the nationalisation of South Africa’s mines and the South African Reserve Bank.

The ruliing African National Congress (ANC) now led by Cyril Ramaphosa has held a majority of the seats in the National Assembly since 1994, being re-elected with increasing majorities in 1999 and 2004 but with a slight fall in its majority in 2009 and 2014. Ramaphosa was elected in 2018 to a five-year term as President of the ANC in a hotly contested election, beating his rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, by a narrow margin.

On February 14th, 2018, former President, Jacob Zuma resigned, paving the way for Ramaphosa, then Deputy President, to succeed him as Acting President to serve out the remainder of Zuma’s term. Since Ramaphosa was elected President on February 15th, 2018, not much has changed in the stance of the party to deal with corruption either within government or amongst its ranks.

Apart from being prostrate on the salient issue of opening up the economy and providing sop for the majority Black population, the ANC’s long accommodation of the excesses of Zuma who’s now undergoing trial on 800 corruption charges virtually soiled its image. The ANC which defeated an earlier motion to expropriate lands without compensation has now gravitated to the idea as it faced the push of the EFF on the issue.

As Chief Negotiator for the ANC, Ramaphosa, a former general secretary of the party and the country’s icon, former President Nelson Mandela are culpable in the side tracking of the key demand of the Freedom Charter on the redistribution of land. Demanding for political power with nominal control of the economy has proved illusory, rendering the ANC spineless on the issue of empowering the Black population whose growing frustration has fuelled the backlash on fellow Africans.

Its pussy feet led to the bolstering of parties like the DA regarded as the official opposition. At the party’s 2015 Federal Congress in Port Elizabeth, Mmusi Maimane was elected leader of the DA, succeeding outgoing leader Helen Zille. He defeated Wilmot James, winning close to 90% of the vote. He was backed by prominent businessman and future Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. He became the first black South African to lead the DA, as well as its youngest leader to date.

In the 2016 municipal elections, the party contested the municipal elections for the first time under the leadership of Maimane, gaining significant support and control of municipalities across South Africa while assuming control of most Western Cape councils. In addition, the party gained three metropolitan municipalities from the ANC – Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The party also increased its majority in Cape Town. But it lost control of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in August 2018, after a vote of no confidence ousted the DA administration. The DA held its Federal Congress on April 7th–8th, 2018 in Pretoria, voting Maimane unopposed as leader for another term.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi has seen a withering of its support base since 2004 due to internal party crises. The party gained municipalities and support in its stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal in the 2016 municipal elections. This election is the last for Buthelezi as party president. He had announced on January 20th 2019 that he would not seek re-election to another term.

The National Freedom Party (NFP) formed in 2011 by disgruntled IFP members, was launched on 25 January 2011 by Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, former chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The party made gains on the IFP in 2014, but lost support in 2016.

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+; Afrikaans: Vryheidsfront Plus, VF+) led by Pieter Groenewald is a conservative, White separatist party formed in 1994. Since 2004, the party’s support has increased but has maintained a small presence in parliament by securing no more than four seats in the National Assembly since the 2004 general election.

According to the party’s manifesto: “The Freedom Front Plus is irrevocably committed to the realisation of communities’, in particular, the Afrikaner’s, internationally recognised right to self-determination, territorial or otherwise; the maintenance, protection and promotion of their rights and interests, as well as the promotion of the right of self-determination of any other community, bound by a common language and cultural heritage in South Africa.”

No doubt the most critical issue in the election was corruption. Corruption within government and government owned enterprises was a significant electoral issue with all three of the largest parties campaigning on the issue. The ANC promised to fight corruption within government and its own party whilst also controversially claiming that it had setup the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture.

The DA wants to impose a standard 15-year jail sentence for anyone caught committing corruption and establish a new anti-corruption unit in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate politicians and government officials involved in misconduct. The EFF proposes amending the constitution to make the NPA accountable to Parliament, rather than the National Government.

Land reform was also a major campaign issue that the three largest political parties campaigned on. The ANC pledged to accelerate redistribution through expropriation in a way that will not negatively impact food security. The EFF campaigned for state ownership over all land and the abolition of rents whilst the DA angled to strengthen property rights but at the same time implementing a land-reform program that increases access to land ownership. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and Congress of the People (COPE) and many other parties are strongly opposed to land expropriation without compensation. COPE and AfriForum have since formed a partnership in their opposition to the controversial policy.

On how to engender economic growth, the ANC campaigned on making economic growth and reducing unemployment its central plank with the promise to create 275,000 new jobs a year for five years and attract R1.2 trillion in investment. Other parties also focused on job creation with the DA promising economic reforms to encourage growth and promoting the growth of small businesses. DA Federal Leader Mmusi Maimane advocated for a job in every household, whilst the EFF promised special economic zones to attract foreign investment.

A number of parties campaigned on the issue of crime and how to deal with it. The ANC pledged to strengthen the police force through better training and recruiting more officers whilst also focusing on dealing with gender-based violence. The DA advocated for the creation and strengthening of local level police forces instead of existing government policy focusing on the national level South African Police Service. The EFF promised harsher sentences for offenders and to greatly expand the police force.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), African Covenant and the African Transformation Movement (ATM) campaigned for the return of the death penalty.

Tackling electricity blackouts caused by long-running and ongoing problems resulting from mismanagement and corruption at the state utility Eskom was an election issue that the DA campaigned on putting the incumbent ANC on the spot. Maimane and the DA Western Cape Premier candidate, Alan Winde, has campaigned for the Western Cape to procure its electricity supply from Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Ramaphosa is however on the firm belief that South Africa would overcome the electricity crisis.

Perhaps more worrisome is how to deal with the stoking of xenophobia which saw the Black population summarily killing fellow Africans whom they accused of taking their jobs on the streets. Many Nigerians and Zimbaweans were at the receiving end of these beastial attacks which also witnessed the massive looting of their shops.

On the March 25th 2019 in the run up to the election, xenophobic riots targeting African immigrants broke out in Durban resulting in the deaths of three people and the looting of foreign owned stores. A speech given by President Ramaphosa at the ANC’s election manifesto launch which talked about cracking down on undocumented foreigners involved in criminal activities was blamed for inflaming xenophobic feeling.

Tony Iyare is an International Relations Analyst. He’s also a Communication & Development Consultant. He can be reached on ehiame2009@gmail.com

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