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No way back for the ANC after municipal elections losses: 'Palpable signs of regress are there'

ANC supporters including senior citizens from Ward 93 in Green Point and Qandu-Qandu informal settlement greeting the party's President Cyril Ramaphosa as he arrives to address them. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

ANC supporters including senior citizens from Ward 93 in Green Point and Qandu-Qandu informal settlement greeting the party's President Cyril Ramaphosa as he arrives to address them. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 8, 2021

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Stating that last week's local government elections were a watershed would be an understatement.

By simply staying away from the polls South Africa's voters have rocked the foundations of the country's politics which have been, since 1994, dominated by the African National Congress.

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The ANC has had an uncomfortable transition from the oldest liberation movement on the African continent to a political party, in charge of a state whose supreme law tacks to the left and emphasises accountability.

Instead of using the power handed to it by the electorate to advance the promises of Nelson Mandela, ANC comrades handling the levers of power in numerous municipalities have gone about their work like a pack of hyenas to the public purse.

In some parts of the country, ANC members have resorted to assassinating each other for access to what in their minds must be an innumerable bounty - a la Squid Game.

While they were engaged in this feeding frenzy, voters took note and decided that they would not give it any legitimacy.

Consider this, in 2016 at the height of corruption allegations against Jacob Zuma and the Gupta cabal, 58% of registered voters turned up at the polls to make their mark - that's 15,2 million voters.

A week ago, only 46% or 12 million voters cast their ballots, a turnout that finally pushed the ANC below the psychological 50% support across the country.

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Local government issues might have been front and centre of the elections, but South African voters stayed away from the polls because, despite promises, almost four years after taking the reins of power President Cyril Ramaphosa has been unable to halt our collective slide - from a jobs bloodbath to government corruption.

Unless you have been living under a rock, the palpable signs of regress are there for all to see. Yes, it was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic but our descent has been years in the making.

For the first time, the ANC has lost its majority in a stronghold like eThekwini (Durban) where former mayor Zandile Gumede is about to stand trial for a R320 million allegedly corrupt waste management tender.

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Instead, opposition parties will hope to put aside their differences to cobble together coalitions to govern metro municipalities like eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Joburg.

After the ANC was booted from power in Cape Town, through a DA-led coalition in 2006, the size of its caucus has diminished from 81 councillors to 43 in 2021.

For the ANC's foot soldiers on the ground, the effect of opposition parties controlling local government will be immediate.

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Regional party bosses will no longer be able to dispense patronage- through kickbacks and jobs - which has earned them loyalty but has bedevilled service delivery across the country.

For opposition parties like the DA and the EFF, the ANC's loss of votes has been no reason to cheer because both parties have not increased their numbers.

The DA could have taken advantage of the anger of voters but instead, the party's federal executive chair Helen Zille took a Trumpian turn, hoping to entice back white voters who rejected the party for the Freedom Front Plus at the 2019 general elections.

* Cape Argus deputy editor Quinton Mtyala.

Cape Argus

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