Municipal poll results throw President Cyril Ramaphosa on the horns of a dilemma

Municipal poll results throw President Cyril Ramaphosa on the horns of a dilemma
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The outcome of these elections show us that the ANC is paying for its years of mismanagement of our economy and the rampant corruption that permeates every layer of government.

With the ANC having dropped below the 50% mark in an important election for the first time since 1994, there are two choices facing President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The first one is whether he should continue with his noble fight against corruption; the second is whether he should retreat into his battered political shell, thus allowing his political rivals to gain ground within the ANC.

Surely it must hurt knowing that history will remember him as the ANC president who saw the party lose its majority in local government elections? The likelihood is that this trend will continue well into the 2024 national and provincial elections.

But as much as the governing party is still smarting from a poor electoral showing, the ANC is still the biggest party in the country and will still be in control of the majority of councils across South Africa. For the ANC and for Ramaphosa, the next three years will be the most crucial as the party faces the real prospect of losing its majority in the 2024 provincial and national elections.

Ramaphosa’s term as ANC president ends in December 2022, when the governing party is expected to go into a national conference to elect a new leader.

This is why I say Ramaphosa has these two choices. But only one option is viable – and that is continuing his fight against corruption. What the 2021 local government elections have shown is that talk is cheap. Speaking of reforms and renewal while leading a collective of known crooks and political misfits is not enough to convince a sceptical electorate that one means what one says.

The outcome of these elections show us that the ANC is paying for its years of mismanagement of our economy and the rampant corruption that permeates every layer of government.

I would even argue that an ANC that is weakened politically is good for Ramaphosa’s plans for a renewal. With reduced access to state resources, there is little patronage to be dispensed. Those who rode the gravy train so that they could access state largesse may have to look elsewhere – a natural cleansing process of sorts.

It is true that the ANC cannot renew itself while things remain the same. The ANC is a damaged brand, but nevertheless remains a strong one. So there is still a chance to recover and arrest the decline. The reality is that the ANC remains the hope of millions of poor South Africans. That matters in a country where 20% of the population still lives in abject poverty.

The DA has shown that it cares less about the poor but more about its middle-class constituency and maintaining its cosy relationship with property developers in the Western Cape.

The EFF remains untested in government but, given the ease with which it changes its public positions, based on the whims of its leader Julius Malema, it lacks consistency.

Some within the ANC have already started blaming Ramaphosa for the electoral setback. But the reality is that the decline of the ANC started in 2009.At the same time, even the current ANC leadership is still in denial about the cause of the decline.

ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe and the party’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte are literally blaming Eskom for the party’s poor fortunes. How unrealistic.

Mantashe accused Eskom of acting in “opposition” to the ANC, suggesting that the recent loadshedding was engineered to undermine the party.

If this is the thinking at the highest level of the ANC, then it shows that they have not learnt anything. They are blaming anyone and everyone but themselves. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

Perhaps someone needs to break it down for Mantashe and Duarte: the ANC lost its majority because it has become a party of corruption that is responsible for the gross mismanagement of our municipalities. Even Eskom is broken because of ANC corruption.

Although undesirable, the local government election results offer Ramaphosa an opportunity to clean up corruption and deliver services. That is what the electorate demands.

A failure to do so will spell doom for the ANC in 2024. The next election will coincide with the ANC’s record of 30 years in power. That is a long time for any party to be in power. The ball is in Ramaphosa’s court. DM168

View the 2021 local government election results here.

Sibusiso Ngalwa is the politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and chair of the South African National Editors’ Forum.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    Listening to Mantashe & Duarte blaming everyone but themselves sums up the ANC:
    a lethal combination of delusion, arrogance & corruption with a large dose of ineptitude & stupidity thrown in.

    Don’t hold your breath, we’ve had many crises which gave Ramaphosa the opportunity to turn things around & he hasn’t. This time around will be no different……

  • William Stucke says:

    “The DA has shown that it cares less about the poor …”
    This assertion is somewhat out of date, Sibusiso. Best you do some research.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    get rid of RET and move on to tackle corruption speedily. get rid of some Ministers who are holding the ANC back, Uncle Gweezy, Nzimande, Zulu to mention a few. oh and the Speaker who should never have been in that position anyhow. these appointments will not serve you well going forward and you have a very short time to do this.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Yawn! What is forgotten in this article is that CR sat alongside Zuma for 9 years and did..NOTHING! He has been President for 3 years and apart from endless talk and a torrent of promises, he has done…NOTHING!! Why on earth would there be any change to this inertia up to 2022…if he lasts that long!

  • Bhekinkosi Madela says:

    Power outages (and their obvious effect on the economy) are one proximate cause for anger with ANC government. The ANC corruption behind Eskom’s failure (which Gwede et al merrily won’t see) is the real source of the party’s poor electoral showing. Without doubt, since 2009, the ANC has been synonymous with corruption.
    The two choices Sbu mentions for Ramaphosa are not relevant now. He has clearly chosen ANC over SA by retaining all those unsavory characters in his cabinet in the name of “unity”. Hope, admittedly forlorn, of redemption would be a swifter and more decisive agency against corruption even if his perceived supporters (eg Oscar Mabuyane in EC) are involved.

  • katy swaddle says:

    The ANC Were handed a not perfect, but a country where government departments i.e municipal hospitals, rubbish collection, railway transport etc, actually worked efficiently again not perfect, but good enough. They have broken everything, including the trust of S.A citizens. Cyril has been a massive disappointment- he promised so much, but it all turned out to be empty speeches. In his efforts to save his beloved ANC, he allowed the looters, thieves and lying opportunistic ministers to bring us to the point where the rest of the world looks on and says “What can you expect?, That’s Africa for you”! So much potential, so much goodwill, squandered …..but viva the ANC!

  • Johan Buys says:

    I see Zuma is calling for a revolt

    That is rich : the ANC lost Zuma’s Nkandla ward!

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    Unfortunately, Cyril Ramaphosa has has many opportunities to fix the country, and he rejected them all in favor of the obviously nonexistent “party unity”. We need only mention a few outstanding ones- the dismissal of the ANC’s ongoing corrupt history as “difficulties” and “lapses”, his tardiness in firing his former scandal-ridden health minister ,and then, when the latter reluctantly resigned, calling that resignation “ honourable” and , probably worst of all, promising to bring the ANC perpetrators of the July unrest ,( which left hundreds dead and thousands of businesses devastated,) to book, he did nothing of any consequence, fearful of the result on his party.That is not a good picture at all and he owns it.

  • Bryan Shepstone says:

    If Cyril had the b@lls to let the ANC split right down the middle as it should have, he would have had the support of the nation and he would not be on the horns of the dilemma. He just doesn’t have what it takes.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:


    Back the following statement up with fact please or formally retract it.

    “The DA has shown that it cares less about the poor but more about its middle-class constituency and maintaining its cosy relationship with property developers in the Western Cape.”

    And if you can’t back it up with fact then you really should be ashamed of yourself. Dis/mis information does everyone in this country a serious disservice.

  • District Six says:

    Katy Swaddle, the ANC wasn’t handed a country that worked. Not at all. The ANC was handed a country that worked… for 6 million white people. The reason why the hospitals are now over-crowded is because pre-1994 black people were sent to homeland “black” hospitals where there were 2 doctors serving 40,000 people, while 200 white people could speedily be processed through JG Strydom, etc, without having to sit in a queue with the 40,000, who were safely confined to a backwater where you could not see them.
    And I could apply that to all the state infrastructure you mentioned.

    • Alan Jeffrey says:

      I understand what you say but the fact remains that the ANC have destroyed the institutions around which the growth of a more equitable society could and should have been created. The way forward is simple-I believe that Ramaphosa is our only hope. If he were to call a Nationwide address and pledge to crack down hard on those elements of the ANC that have all but destroyed the country and indeed his party, he would have the backing of 90% of South Africans and a free hand to do whatever is necessary in excising the evil people responsible for the mess we are all in!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    @TimElliot – I remain astounded that you – and so many others – think that CR has done nothing. It is under his watch that you are seeing the rot exposed. It looks ugly, but it is being exposed. We have to start somewhere surely. I personally believe his position is far more difficult than we give him credit for.

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