The ANC will be a very different animal if it hopes to stay in power in 2019, says Max du Preez.
Durban - If the ANC’s support dropped to below 60 percent of the vote in next year’s election and the trend continues, the ANC could lose power in 2019, right?
The second question in the minds of the chattering classes is: would the ANC accept a defeat at the polls and hand over power?
Sure, I suppose if the DA got a third or so of the votes and AgangSA, the Economic Freedom Fighters and other small parties combined could potentially draw more than 10 percent of the vote, the ANC could end up in the upper fifties next year.
But to start talking about the possible election results of 2019 presumes the political landscape is going to remain the same over the next six years.
That, I feel confident in predicting, is not going to be the case. “The ANC” could be a very different animal by then, so it makes little sense to speculate about the answer to the second question.
It made a lot of sense for the ANC as a liberation movement and as the governing party in the immediate post-apartheid era to be a broad church, to accommodate everyone from militant socialists to social democrats to hard-nosed capitalists, from left-wing progressives to arch-conservatives, from non-racialists and constitutionalists to traditional black nationalists.
But nearly 20 years on, this broad church has become an artificial, uncomfortable place for many. Unofficially, this church has already broken up into several distinct sects – and it is hard to imagine the disintegration not continuing.
The war of attrition that some in Luthuli House have been waging against now suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi (and his own irresponsible actions) and his allies in the trade union movement like National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s Irvin Jim cannot be reversed. It seems inevitable that Vavi, Jim and some others still in Cosatu will leave the ANC.
If the Economic Freedom Fighters does well in next year’s election (5 percent plus of the vote), it will be in Parliament propagating exactly the same policies now espoused by Vavi, Jim and company: nationalisation of mines and banks and strong state intervention in the economy. How will these groups compete if they have the same raison d’être?
It’s not outrageous to speculate that if Julius Malema were to go to jail after his pending trial on charges of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering, there would be pressure on Vavi to step into his position.
Then the EFF would suddenly be a formidable opponent to the ANC and attract all the other left-wing and socialist formations. It could develop into a 15 percent plus party if recent market research on workers’ views got it right and if the party establishes a proper structure of branches and regions.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe recently told a trade union gathering that the ANC would inevitably move to the right if a part of Cosatu were to leave the alliance.
Of course, it would be inevitable. Without the militant socialist caucus, the ANC would consolidate around the middle ground represented by most of its branches, regions and senior leadership. It would make it possible for the ANC leadership to make and implement policies they believe in and think can work, rather than to try to appease their left wing.
But what about the SACP? Interesting question. They are supposed to be the real socialists, the champions of the National Democratic Revolution. But it has chosen the opportunistic route of hitching its wagon to the Jacob Zuma locomotive and been in the front trenches fighting Vavi, Jim and other dissidents.
If a strong, coherent party does develop on the left of the ANC, the SACP’s position will be untenable. Those of its members that really still believe in socialism will inevitably drift towards the new party. It could leave the SACP little more than an empty shell.
If the main body of the ANC settles in the centre and succeeds in establishing some coherence and unity, it could limit the growth potential of other centrist parties such as the DA and AgangSA.
If the party or parties on the left become more powerful, we could start getting our heads around a strategic coalition between the ANC, DA and AgangSA. That would probably create space for a party to the right of the DA, but one that serves more than just Afrikaner interests like the Freedom Front Plus does.
Of course, a political realignment could happen completely differently. One of the permutations could be a straight election victory for a DA/AgangSA (including smaller parties such as Cope and the UDM) coalition in 2019. Another would be where the new, reformed ANC won on its own. A lot can change in six years.
All we know for sure is that the political landscape will be different. And probably healthier.
* Max du Preez is an author and columnist.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.