Cape Town -
Political parties will be heading into the 2014 elections with aggressive campaigns, and expansive promises and policies – but one thing many of them won’t have is the trust of the electorate.
According to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, more than half of South Africans no longer have any faith in the country’s leaders, and most people are considering voting for a different party.
This is just one of the many findings that make up the institute’s 2013 SA reconciliation survey – which, through conducting face-to-face interviews with a diverse group of 3 500 people from across the country, aimed to produce a concise “snapshot” of the South African public’s opinion and equality within the country.
The standout figure is that confidence in political parties is at 46 percent, which has dropped by 10.8 percent since last year’s survey.
Compounding the problem, there has been an 13 percent decrease to 62 percent in the portion of citizens who feel the government simply does care about them.
Following the release of the figures on Wednesday, the DA slammed President Jacob Zuma for his role in diminishing public confidence.
DA spokesman in the Presidency Joe McGluwa said the president’s inability to provide a clean and transparent government had cost him any trust. The focal point of McGluwa’s criticism was plummeting confidence in the police, which had seen public confidence drop from 60 percent in 2012 to just 47.9 percent.
The authors of the survey attributed this to frequent incidents of police brutality in the past two years – including the Marikana massacre.
But McGluwa said South Africa’s slip from 69 to 72 out of 177 countries surveyed as part of Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index had also contributed to the decline: “Any downward trends in government should be immediately dealt with, and the poor performer held to account. This poor performer is Zuma. The public should not reward this performance with a vote at the ballot next year.”
While the DA has been quick to criticise its opposition in the Western Cape, the survey has revealed another side of the party’s political control of the province.
The provincial government is not immune to distrust, with 57 percent of people interviewed in the province stating that they no longer have any faith in their leaders.
Nowhere is this no-confidence problem more evident than among the poor – with only 15 percent of the people interviewed in the lower income brackets showing any faith in local government.
Compared with ANC-run provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Gauteng – where confidence is above 50 percent across the board – the Western Cape has conflicts.
“We do not see such a marked difference between class and trust in local government (as we do in this province) in any of the other provinces,” wrote the authors of the survey.
The widespread lack of confidence in the current leadership nationwide will give new parties an opportunity to establish themselves in the forthcoming elections.
Among these new parties is AgangSA, led by Mamphela Ramphele. The party will be focused on the issue of trust and restoring faith in local government.
Party policy director Mills Soko said it was understandable that people had become disillusioned by their leaders, because the government was completely disconnected from the public.
“Representatives are not living among their communities. We want to change the electoral system and make sure the elected are living among the electors.”
This would allow representatives to better voice the concerns of constituents, interact with their voters and become more directly accountable in the public eye.
The party will also place an emphasis on transparency and eradicating corruption. Soko said corruption had eroded confidence in local government, leading to the current situation.
The Economic Freedom Fighters agreed that corruption was at the centre of diminishing trust in government.
The party has proposed a new system in which the provision of public services is no longer outsourced to private companies.
“Outsourcing at the moment is the name of the game, characterised by the tendering system. This system breeds corruption, creates precarious jobs and does not deliver,” said party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
A new system in which the state, as much as possible, built capacity to provide services, would restore trust in government.
A glaring issue that parties will have to address is class division. The institute concluded that segregation was no longer a racial issue but was now along economic lines.
While South Africans who took part in the survey desired a united South Africa, the biggest divisive gap cited was class inequality.
Racial integration was more common among the bigger earners, but among the lower income brackets the institute said race and class were inseparable.
“Black South Africans comprise the vast majority of the materially excluded… a dire reality which is not experienced by most white South Africans. This is part of the legacy passed down from the apartheid system which fostered a mutually reinforcing relationship between racial discrimination and class inequality.”
The survey concluded that this inequality was the biggest obstacle for true reconciliation, and was still a prevalent issue almost 20 years after the dawn of democracy.