Dwindling ANC fortunes could spawn strong multiparty democracy
THERE is considerable political turbulence in our political situation in South Africa today. This is essentially due to the contestation for leadership positions in the ANC in the run-up to its election conference in December, coupled with the inordinate controversy caused by, among other things, state capture and the rampant and endemic corruption that the Zuma presidency has spawned. Within the ANC there is unprecedented instability and a real danger of some kind of political implosion.
Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that our political situation has been changing for some time.
To a greater or lesser extent this is illustrated by the fact that before the local government elections on August 3 last year, South Africa could have been accurately described as a dominant party state democracy. This followed the fact that the ANC had secured 63% in the local government elections of 2011. In the 2016 election, its support diminished to 53.91%.
A paradigmatic change has occurred with its support having dwindled to not merely less than 60%, but below 55%.
It is cogently submitted that the results of these local elections indicate unequivocally that a change in political paradigm has occurred. The results illustrate in no uncertain terms that the days of ANC hegemony in South African politics are over, and that, what is emerging, is a system of strong multi-party democracy.
This was accompanied by the loss of three important metros and the need for coalition governments in these.
The emergence of a strong multiparty system in place of ANC hegemony in our political system is due in part to the growth of the DA and the EFF.
With the debilitating instability in the ANC as a result of the political contestation for leadership positions at the December conference, it is interesting and fascinating to consider and deliberate on the political prognosis for our future.
In an incisive, bold and thought-provoking study, Jakkie Celliers, an informed political commentator and founder of the Institute for Security Studies, in his book entitled Fate of the Nation 3 Scenarios for South Africa’s future, endeavours to analyse our problematic political scene and give a reasoned prognosis.
In this regard he categorises and analyses three scenarios: First, the partial triumph of the so-called traditionalists. This option he designates Bafana-Bafana, and the mere continuation of the existing political set-up, based on patronage and corruption, facilitated an artificial unity and by no split in the ANC and with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma elected as president of the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy at the December conference or the other way around.
This would continue to lead us as a nation and country on a downward trend.
Second, the reformist tradition with a victory for constitutionalists and Ramaphosa elected as president and the routing of the traditionalists and the Zuma faction, defeated by Ramaphosa. This, he indicates, would be the most favourable for South Africa.
Third, the unequivocal triumph of traditionalists, with Dlamini Zuma elected president and the Ramaphosa faction defeated and completely sidelined or alienated. This he designates the divided nation scenario and views it as disastrous for South Africa.
Obviously, Celliers has presented us with reasoned speculation.
In a radio interview Celliers indicated that the present intense turmoil in the ANC could bring about unintended and very different consequences.
In an equally interesting book by Theuns Eloff called Turning Point, the author makes out a cogent case for a Government of National Unity. This would bring together the most competent and honest politicians to start afresh and set us on the correct path to political and economic rehabilitation and urgently address the problems of endemic corruption, economic inequality and poverty. The vital issue is how could this come about?
What is clear from the results of the local government elections last year and from the emergence of coalition governments in the urban metros of Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Metropole and Joburg is that the party political scene is in the process of significant transition and flux.
This is a beneficial development and furthermore there is a real possibility that in the general election of 2019, the ANC may not secure more than 50% of the national vote and could lose Gauteng.
Our multi-party political system would then require the formation of coalition governments at national level and possibly in Gauteng as well.
This, it is submitted, would be no magic solution as coalition governments are by their very nature inherently unstable, as the problems with the existing coalition government in the Nelson Mandela Metropole indicates.
Nevertheless, they can work and open up political opportunities for sagacious and courageous leadership.
Furthermore, with the emergence and operation of coalition governments in the metros and other cognate issues such as the probable fracturing of the tripartite alliance, as is taking place at present, this could bring about a reorientation of political parties based on economic policy rather than race, political allegiance and personalities.
Such a state of affairs could indeed result in the option of a Government of National Unity as proposed by Eloff, involving the constitutionalists in Celliers’s second option, discussed above, and like-minded politicians in the DA that is likely to obtain considerably more electoral support in 2019 at the cost of the ANC, and the other smaller opposition parties, depending on the circumstances and election results.
South Africa and its people have infinite potential and the present crisis of credibility and confidence in the governing ANC and the country could be a prelude for great political opportunities.
What is required is inspired, competent and bold political leadership that will take our country on a high road to political success and economic equality for all its people.