Opinionista Rebone Tau 21 October 2019

The big meetings that will shape SA’s political landscape

All the major South African political parties are holding key conferences ahead of the 2021 local government elections. The elections and the conferences will be vital indicators of where SA is heading politically.

The political landscape in South Africa is becoming more interesting and this is due to the most recent national general elections held in May 2019. Local government elections in 2021 are going to be absorbing and the results will depend on how the main parties handle their internal political challenges.

Looking at the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) early congress coming up in 2020, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) national conference in December 2019 and the African National Congress’s (ANC) national general council in 2020, all the main political parties are under pressure going into local government elections in 2021. This shows that our democracy is maturing quickly.

But what is more interesting is that voters are casting their ballots along racial lines. The decline of the DA in the last election was evident enough and the growth of the EFF and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) shows that people voted along racial lines. The DA lost white votes to the FF+ and this was a wake-up call for it.

The comeback of Helen Zille this weekend shows how important the white vote is to the DA, and also reveals the FF+ is giving the DA a run for its money. Her return means the DA wants to gain the ground it lost to the FF+, and its upcoming policy conference will be interesting as it is also preparing for an early congress in 2020. Zille’s election as federal chairperson shows she will play a critical role going to the DA’s policy conference. She is going to give direction on which route the party will take in the run-up to local government elections in 2021, and this will be based on the policies that will be adopted at its policy conference.

On the other hand, the EFF’s national conference will be a huge turning point for it, since it last went to a national conference in 2013. The unity of the EFF will be tested in December, and it will become clearer whether the party is moving forward, or facing challenges as we have seen with other breakaway parties from the ANC that declined after their second conferences. The build-up to the national conference will give us a sense of how the EFF will perform going forward. Will the EFF come back from its conference united or will it decline due to power struggles in the party?

The ANC has its own internal political challenges as it approaches the national general council in 2020. Apart from reviewing the ANC’s policies, the national general council will give the factions in the party an opportunity to test their strength, going to their national conference in 2022. The issue of which faction will have more councillor candidates at the local elections in 2021 will give us a sense of which faction is dominant.

There are also the conferences of the ANCYL and ANCWL in 2020 – these two conferences will show us how the power struggle is playing out in the party.

Lastly, the current political landscape – what does it mean for ordinary men and women in South Africa? What direction is our country taking? These are the discussions we should be having as a nation. DM

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