Opinionista Patricia de Lille 22 November 2020

Let the good times roll: After Super Wednesday, more of the Western Cape is up for grabs

Results from the Super Wednesday by-elections in the Western Cape indicate that voters are growing tired of the DA and that the party is vulnerable in a number of key areas.

Most Western Cape voters have been searching for a comfortable seat at the table of South African politics since the dawn of democracy in 1994, when they backed the old National Party over the ANC, then led by Nelson Mandela.

For various historic, demographic and trust-related reasons, they have since struggled to align their perceived interests with those of voters in other provinces – and have consistently returned the Democratic Alliance to power for the past dozen or so years.

The problem is that voting for Party A in order to keep out Party B doesn’t lead to cleaner or safer streets. It doesn’t address overcrowding or the social and environmental conditions that snare young people in drug addiction. Instead of being able to hold local and provincial governments to account for the delivery of better conditions and opportunities in their communities, the majority of Western Cape people have become a supporting cast in an endless arm wrestle between old and tired political parties.

These parties have grown so comfortable with their roles in power and in opposition that they have arguably become co-dependents. But their dance has delivered precious few improvements to the lives of ordinary people. Each time there are local government elections, communities have high hopes that the councillors they choose to represent them will fight for their fair share of the pie.

But instead of serving their needs, and the broader societal needs to balance the imbalances inherited from apartheid, their representatives get caught up serving the “higher” needs of the bosses in their parties and councils. And so the arm wrestling continues…

Voters are not easily fooled. 

Elections give them the opportunity to reward the party they believe best understands their needs. During my time as executive mayor of Cape Town, the approval of voters translated into a jump from 61% to 67% between the 2011 and 2016 local government election polls. 

Then the bosses intervened.

We established the GOOD movement a little over 18 months ago as a viable alternative to this lose-lose equation. It is a platform for good people, period – no matter how they look, what language they speak at home or how much money they have in the bank.

There are good people to be found across all the old parties’ support bases, and many have told us how disillusioned they’ve become with politics and politicians. We have invited them to join us on a four-legged journey to achieve social, economic, spatial and environmental justice for all. By “justice”, we mean the fair and equitable access to and distribution of opportunities and privileges in society.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech, South Africa is a land of sufficient resources for all.

Local government by-elections are not usually the domain to track provincial and national political trends, but last week’s Super Wednesday elections in more than 100 wards across the country were different. They collectively canvassed the views of hundreds of thousands of voters, and were the first opportunity to take the nation’s temperature following a year of Covid-19 disruption.

For a new party such as GOOD, they were also an opportunity to organise and prepare systems and approaches for the main course: local government elections next year. In consultation with the communities, we selected local candidates with deep roots in their wards and no-nonsense attitudes to baasskap or corruption. 

We made it clear that our candidates were mandated to put the interests of their wards above all other party and political considerations. This approach is very different to that of the old parties who select candidates who will do as they’re told.

What also distinguished GOOD from the other parties is its anti-corruption work. GOOD doesn’t wield allegations of corruption as a political weapon; it gathers evidence which is submitted to the appropriate authorities. Serious allegations of fraud, corruption and cronyism are under investigation by various agencies, including the Public Protector and police, in respect of George and Saldanha Bay municipalities as a result of reports to the party’s anti-corruption hotline.

The results from Super Wednesday were a bonus: GOOD took its first seat in a Western Cape council, in Pacaltsdorp, George, and came within a whisker of unseating the incumbent party in four of the other five wards it contested. Across all of these wards, DA percentages of the vote were drastically slashed.

In George and Saldanha, GOOD demonstrated that it is growing faster than all the old and tired political pretenders: in George’s Ward 14, the party lost by a mere 56 votes. In Ward 17, voters cut their support for the DA from 63% (2016) to 38%. Support for the ANC also tumbled significantly across the George wards.

After winning 3% of the vote in George last year following our mad dash to register in time to contest national elections, GOOD has now emerged as the second-biggest party in the wards contested in the town – besides the one ward we won. In Saldanha Bay, GOOD’s candidate Sucilla van Tura lost Ward 13 to the DA by just 93 votes. Support for the DA dropped from 71% (2016) to 44.6%.

GOOD also contested a ward in Langa, in the City of Cape Town, establishing important roots in the community. At just over 18 months old, when most are still learning to walk, GOOD has outperformed all of the established players.

The Super Wednesday results are a clear indication of political shifts taking place, and position the party to challenge for the leadership of municipalities across the Western Cape next year. 

They also create a solid platform for expansion to other provinces. DM

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  • “Elections give them the opportunity to reward the party they believe best understands their needs. During my time as executive mayor of Cape Town, the approval of voters translated into a jump from 61% to 67% between the 2011 and 2016 local government election polls.”

    What does this have to do with your leadership? Perhaps voters were simply voting against the mess that the ANC were offering under the leadership of Jacob Zuma?

    “They collectively canvassed the views of hundreds of thousands of voters, and were the first opportunity to take the nation’s temperature following a year of Covid-19 disruption.”

    Yes, and no. Yes in that they showed many people stayed away from the election booths, no in that so many people chose to stay away from the election booths. This is the norm for by-elections, but even more so due to the COVID pandemic.

    “At just over 18 months old, when most are still learning to walk, GOOD has outperformed all of the established players.”

    Again, everything I’ve read has pointed that even by by-election standards, voter turnout was poor. Am happy to be corrected on this but let’s see how things turn out post-pandemic, during the regular election season, whenever that happens.

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