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The ANC must wake up and smell the coffee – the people are gatvol and the party is in crisis


Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

The ANC leadership needs to understand that South Africans don’t eat policies. The ANC may have the best policies, as it claims, but does it implement those policies outside of factional internal battles?

Looking at this year’s local government elections, the ANC is in a serious crisis. No one in the party talks about Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s Local Government 2011 Report. If the ANC were serious about self-correcting it would have discussed that report before these elections. Self-correcting is a mere slogan by the ANC – there is no self-correcting when we read the Auditor-General’s report that talks about money that is being wasted at local government level annually.

The ANC seemed to be happy with the outcome of the 2016 election, as it stated that the low voter turnout was based on the fact that the people of South Africa still love the ANC, and that is why they did not bother to vote in 2016. Some people in the ANC even argued that former president Jacob Zuma was the cause of the low voter turnout because of the allegations of corruption or his alleged relationship with the Gupta family. In 2021, do they still think that Zuma is the cause for a low voter turnout in these elections?

While that is a misinformed view, people are really not voting because they don’t see any strong opposition party that they can identify with or relate to. The people no longer vote as they feel that their vote is undermined by political parties; they feel that political parties just do as they please in government. No one talks about the role of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in terms of oversight at local government level. The department has failed the people of South Africa as it doesn’t hold any municipalities accountable when it comes to corruption or lack of service delivery.

This is because Cogta is led by an ANC deployee and most municipalities are under the ANC-led government. Because some of the mayors are also ANC regional executive committee chairpersons, politics comes into play because Cogta wants a good relationship with mayors, despite a lack of service delivery and accountability in a particular municipality. If Cogta was to do its job, we would see service delivery improving and that means people would also see the need to vote.

Since 2019, in KwaZulu-Natal we have seen a decline of the ANC following the Zuma era. It is evident that Zuma got the ANC vote in KZN during his era as president of the party. You can go back to the 2009 elections when the ANC won outright in that province, as in each election since the dawn of our democracy by getting about 62% at the provincial level. This is because Zuma in the 1990s played a critical role in KZN by helping end the political violence between the ANC and the IFP.

Zuma is the Mandela of KZN, whether we like him or not, and the decline of the ANC in that province after the July riots is evidence that the people of KZN are really hurt and they would rather vote for the IFP. The ANC also lost the ward of Nkandla where Zuma resides, and we have seen that the DA won the uMngeni Municipality in these local government elections.

The ANC leadership needs to understand that South Africans don’t eat policies – we have seen people from Soweto marching to Luthuli House on the day of the elections. These are people who allege that they applied for RDP houses in 1996 and have still not received them. What was interesting is that no leader of the ANC NEC was there to receive the memorandum from the protesters on Monday. These were old people who we saw are really struggling financially, and we are aware that there is a backlog of RDP houses in Gauteng. The ANC may have the best policies, as it claims, but does it implement those policies outside of factional internal battles?

During these election campaigns the poor people only see the ANC leadership visiting their houses to canvass for votes, arriving in expensive cars. How do you understand someone’s struggle if you don’t have to go to bed not knowing when you will get your next meal? The only time they will visit again will be in 2024 when we have our national general election.

The low voter turnout should never be a surprise to politicians. People are fed up as they feel they are used as voting cattle by politicians who are living a lavish lifestyle. The VBS saga is a typical example, as it allegedly involved EFF and ANC politicians.

People in rural areas have also lost confidence in the ANC – we are no longer going to see an overwhelming majority vote for the ANC moving forward as people don’t have access to clean water and electricity in some rural areas. People in these areas are living under very difficult conditions and some don’t even have proper roads in their communities. DM


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  • Rolando MacJones says:

    What everyone is missing is that the coloured people are speaking for ourselves now. PA in particular, but GOOD, CCC and other fringe parties, including the FF+ (believe it or not).

    Coloureds are gatvol of both sides of the identity politics spectra.

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    But, boy, can the ANC talk! And that is all they do ….

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    There have been thousands of service delivery protests over the years, and massive concomitant destruction. Ignored by the ANC. Now the loss of votes has suddenly come to their attention. Herein lies a message to the non-voters: protest is useless, non-voting is much more effective, and voting to at least give alternative politicians a chance would be the most effective of all.
    As an aside, my gut tells me that non-voting is itself a small commitment. It makes it less likely that the voter will return to a party next time. I.e. there is some permanent loss.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    The ANC’s policies are completely bankrupt and outdated. The only hope is for them to recognise this and to follow best practice growth policies if their is a sincere desire to uplift the poor – which I doubt. It is all about short term power and money, sadly.

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