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As the ANC rots away and the left loses its compass, KZN might swing to the right


Dr Imraan Buccus is a senior research associate at the Auwal Socio-economic Research Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at Durban University of Technology.

Election debates are hotting up and there is much talk of a DA-IFP coalition taking over in KwaZulu-­Natal – and a swing to right-wing politics.

In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the ANC dropped to 54% in the 2019 elections, down 10% from the 64% it received in 2014. Since then, much has changed. The ANC has imploded and there’s despondency all around – from the enclaves of Umhlanga to the Kennedy Road shack settlement.

There is deep pessimism and anger about the ANC. In fact, it’s common to encounter outright loathing.

It seems clear that in the next election even more former ANC supporters will stay at home while others shift their votes to ­other parties.

The IFP was on a downward trajectory until 2019, but the electoral graph has swung dramatically in its favour since then. With the party going from more than 50% of the provincial vote in 1994 to just over 10% a decade later, many had written it off. But, with 16% in 2019, the IFP is seen as a political comeback kid.

Moreover, much can be drawn from the IFP’s performance in the 2021 local elections. Of the 18 municipalities that the ANC lost, 17 were to the IFP or IFP-led coalitions. It’s clear that, in KZN, the IFP is the major beneficiary of the collapse in support for the ANC as a result of its descent into corruption, violence and an utter lack of vision.

In fact, along with Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, the IFP is one of the few parties that are actually growing and managing to capitalise on the ANC’s decline. The DA has not been able to do the same but it still has a base among the minorities and had 14% of the vote in KZN in the last election.

Issues to resolve

Some may say it’s premature but, be that as it may, the political debate in KZN has moved to what the province might look like with the ANC pushed to the periphery in 2024. Many foresee a DA-IFP coalition ­taking power.

Both the DA and the IFP see this as a viable way forward but, as with every possible coalition, there will be issues to resolve.

At the moment the stumbling block is that the DA is concerned that the IFP has not dealt decisively with the corruption in its ranks, which is all too reminiscent of the ANC.

But the IFP is well aware that it can’t govern the province without the DA and has promised to act against corruption.

People across the political spectrum share the view that the ANC is now a clear and present danger to society, and is doing damage that could take decades to repair.

For many, any alternative to the ANC will be welcome, and that’s certainly a position that is easy to understand.

But we do have to hold to basic standards, no matter the depth of our feeling at the betrayal by the ANC of everything that the struggle stood for.

The potential rise to power of an IFP-DA coalition would be a dramatic turn to the right in our electoral politics.

This raises all sorts of worrying questions, including the real risk of a rise in ethnic and xenophobic politics, as well as the possibility of even more reactionary positions on issues such as street traders, shack dwellers and so on. Anti-poor “law and order” politics would be the likely outcome.

General social conservatism

The IFP is also quite likely to drive a much harder position in support of traditional authority, even the utterly discredited Ingonyama Trust. It is also likely to push a general social conservatism, including on gender.

If the ANC does indeed lose power in KZN, nobody outside its patronage networks will mourn its demise. But a shift to the right would bring its own problems, which returns us to a question I have often raised, which is the abject failure of the left to build a credible electoral project.

The new “left” pact by the Pan Africanist Congress, African Transformation Movement (ATM) and the former pro-Gupta propaganda outfit Black First Land First (BLF) is a joke.

The PAC has a noble history but collapsed into irrelevance years ago, and the ATM and BLF were both set up as proxies for the Gupta-­Zuma kleptocracy. They are pseudo-­left organisations that no one in their right mind would take seriously.

For a country with such a remarkable left tradition, a tradition that mobilised millions under the banner of the UDF in the 1980s, it’s just extraordinary that it’s the forces of the right – the IFP and DA in KZN, and ActionSA in Johannesburg – that are best placed to profit from the stinking rot in the ANC.

The failure of our intellectuals, trade unionists, grassroots activists and progressive religious leaders to step into the breach will haunt us for decades to come. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    @Herman, South Africa is not about you.

    Please step aside and stop splitting the vote as you are simply helping destroy our beautiful country.

    And you needn’t be bored! You could maybe spend the free time working with a pet author to touch up your unauthorized biography.

  • andrew farrer says:

    “law and order” politics si what SA needs! But labelling this “anti-poor”is just anc propaganda. With proper law and order, the need for people to live in shaks would go away. But enforcing rules is necessary for society, like it or not. You can’t just decide to erect a shack somewhere because it suits you. The authorities need to take a hard line and enforce city by-laws which are there for a reason. How many shack dwellers die/ loose all their posessions because they’ve erected their shack in a flood zone and the authorities turn a blind eye? Rate payers also have rights, and should not have to see parks/ green zones ect taken over by shacks. These are essential to the mental well being of city dwellers.

  • David Walker says:

    Your division of South Africa into left and right wing is a totally false dichotomy. The real dichotomy is between the corrupt and the competent. Because of their competence and lack of thievery, the DA in Cape Town is able to direct more spending towards the poor than happens in any other metro. The poor in KZN will greatly benefit from the end of ANC rule.

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