The African National Congress was meant to be different from other liberation movements on a continent where freedom fighters have mostly failed to make the transition to governing. Today, though, it is in trouble. Unable to bring jobs, economic growth, decent education or even hope to the black majority in whose name it struggled against apartheid, it faces an electoral turning point, The Financial Times reports:
Just how far the ANC has fallen in the estimation of black South Africans will become apparent when the results of Wednesday’s election are announced later this week. Though just a municipal poll to select representatives of wards, towns and cities, it has become a bitterly contested referendum on the ANC. For the first time since it came to power in 1994 led by Nelson Mandela, the party’s share of the vote could drop below 60 per cent.
ANC rule has also been marred by pronounced kleptocratic tendencies, observers suggest.
It comes as no surprise that ANC elections head, Nomvula Mokonyane, recently said that the party had spent R1 billion on this election. The enormity of that sum is hard to comprehend, notes one analyst:
Predictably, Mokonyane backtracked a few days later and ANC Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize denied the amount. If the ANC has indeed spent R1 billion, it would be staggering.
Who donated such large sums of money, and what was it used for? A poster war, rallies, the ubiquitous T-shirt? Opposition parties have no doubt been pouring large sums of money into these elections as well. But no one really knows how much political parties have spent on campaigning because of a complete lack of transparency in the funding of political parties….This past week, the vexed issue of money and politics was again raised by advocacy group My Vote Counts. The group will once more take to the courts to challenge the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), in a bid to get parties to disclose their sources of funding.
The Democratic Alliance, whose forerunner garnered just 1.7 per cent of the 1994 vote, has steadily increased its support, winning 22 per cent in the 2014 general election. Now under the leadership of Mmusi Maimane, its first black leader, the DA hopes to nudge its support rate towards 30 per cent. Though primarily a party that appeals to whites, coloureds and Indians — terms still in use 22 years after the end of apartheid — the DA is slowly gaining the support of black voters, especially those in the aspiring middle class.
“That may well be a good thing for the ANC itself. It has to taste a loss of power to revive itself,” says Xolela Mangcu, a sociology professor at the University of Cape Town. “For the ANC to be better, it has to lose.”