DAILY MAVERICK WEBINAR
SA still in early stages of democracy and needs stronger party opposition, says Moeletsi Mbeki
Single party dominance in South Africa is a sign that the country is still a young democracy, argued political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki during a Daily Maverick webinar.
South Africa is not a ‘vibrant’ democracy but rather a country that is still in the early stages of its democracy, argued Moeletsi Mbeki during a webinar hosted by Daily Maverick on Wednesday 31 January 2024.
Mbeki, a distinguished political analyst, author, and entrepreneur, was reacting to questions about the African National Congress (ANC) during the webinar, which was hosted by senior Daily Maverick journalist Rebecca Davis alongside Professor Nicola de Jager from the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University.
The webinar discussed De Jager’s research paper, titled “Has the ANC lost touch with South Africans: The party over people”.
Mbeki said South Africa’s democracy is “at a very early stage” and that is why a single party, the ANC, has dominated government.
“That’s just the way it is for the last 100 years. We’ve had two political parties, the National Party and the ANC.”
This, Mbeki said, was a sign that “South Africa is a very immature democracy”.
Noting the hundreds of registered political parties in the country hoping to contest the upcoming elections, Mbeki said, “It shows you we have no clue what democracy is about”.
Who is to blame for decline in voter turnout?
At the start of the webinar, de Jager explained her paper, including sections which showed the decline in support for the ANC over different election cycles. The most trusted president the country has seen was Thabo Mbeki, said de Jager.
Explaining her paper, de Jager pointed to a ‘massive decline’ in citizens voting.
“If you look at those who did not vote for the first time in our last elections, 51% did not turn out to vote… So this is massive,” she said.
“So what’s happening is South Africans are actually opting out of the democratic system. They’re not voting… and then we see those who are voting for the ruling party — it’s only 28% [of eligible voters],” she said.
This, de Jager said, was a “massive decline in terms of social support”.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC support plummets to 33%, but it is still likely to form a government next year, new study finds
In response, Mbeki said he disagreed with a lot of the details within de Jager’s paper.
“For example, Nicola has blamed, in a way, the ANC for the decline in voter turnout and for the lots of people staying at home instead of going to vote. You can’t blame the ANC for that,” said Mbeki.
“It’s the opposition. That is because the opposition has failed to offer policies that are attractive to the electorate.”
Mbeki argued that the reason why the ANC lost key areas such as Johannesburg and Tshwane was because some voters had become dissatisfied with the ANC’s economic policies and the opposition hadn’t offered a viable alternative.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024 Knowledge Base
“So the people who are not voting are not voting because the opposition is not offering them meaningful policies towards solving South Africa’s economic problems and problems of crime and problems of unemployment,” he said.
De Jager pointed out that she illustrated the declining support for the ANC, which showed a kind of shift between “the citizen and the ANC” and it was evident in the election results.
She said what was now needed was to mobilise voters, and civil society as well as political parties need to help.
“We’re starting to see the mobilisation happening.” DM