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Janet Smith highlights the roleplayers and pivotal moments of the 2014 national and provincial election.
ANC: In its 20th year of democratic rule, the former liberation movement faced the greatest challenges to its leadership on Wednesday.
The most recent survey conducted for a Sunday newspaper showed it was expected to finish at about 63 percent, off the high Jacob Zuma experienced in 2009. The electorate rewarded the optimism around his presidency with a whopping 65.9 percent.
If the president and his slate tapped the populist swing, his first term didn’t translate into good PR for his party. Corruption on his watch is sometimes estimated at as high as R1 billion. Nkandla was studded with political traps, and the party manhandled Marikana. Zuma couldn’t even campaign there.
Yet the ANC had led a massive investment in infrastructure. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said it was more than R1 trillion in the past five years.
But comrades torn asunder, and an ineffective, defensive youth wing, didn’t help. The party needs regeneration, and this is expected to direct the results on Saturday away from the party’s majority, to give it a fright.
Agang: The confusion that leader Mamphela Ramphele caused in the party and among its supporters over the DA merger was expected to cost it on Wednesday. Questions about the character of its leader lingered to the end. Also, its communications as a new party have been very poor. The voters barely got a sense of them after a while, and it was only when the party decided to throw its lot in with the Economic Freedom Fighters and others over Independent Electoral Commission head Pansy Tlakula that some spark was reignited.
Bantu Holomisa: The United Democratic Movement leader has, of course, been in government for 20 years, most of those at the helm of his tiny party.
This election, support seemed to concentrate on North West and the Eastern Cape. It’s a far cry from the glory days, when he and ex-National Party chief negotiator Roelf Meyer went into politics together after his expulsion.
Cope: After gaining a motivating 7.4 percent of the vote in 2009, following its breakaway from the ANC, Cope has all but crumbled.
Analysts say the fact that the party was formed “in anger” after the rise of Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007 had finally left it doomed. At least 19 prominent members left the party on the cusp of the election. Many of them might say they were unhappy with Mosiuoa Lekota’s leadership style and allegations of affairs and misuse.
Cosatu: The ANC’s alliance partner was riven in the run-up to elections. Secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi and federation president Sdumo Dlamini fought almost to the death for power. They’re still fighting. Also, a changing class composition has affected its membership, which in turn may have wondered if the ANC was their natural home, after all. At the same time, its rank and file still believe in its strength. A survey among shop stewards late last year showed that at least 65 percent would vote for a labour-centric party, but only if the federation led it. Despite a threatened breakaway by its biggest partner, Numsa, no such party was formed. But next time, things may be different.
DA: Having captured 16.7 percent of the national vote in 2009, giving it 67 seats, the opposition party galvanised its 2014 campaign around creating jobs and against corruption in the ANC.
But there were controversies in the background, including issues over evictions and housing in the community of Delft in the Western Cape, the scandal of open toilets and questions around its real face on black empowerment. Recent aggression from some of its leaders in the Western Cape was embarrassing.
It is widely accepted the DA will come second in the elections race, but if it increases its margin and enters into useful coalitions, anything might be possible.
EFF: Formed in the middle of last year and launched at Wonderkop, Marikana, in October, the party’s campaign focused on poverty and economic emancipation.
Analysts predicted a high of 7 percent or 8 percent for the party in the elections, citing fears around nationalisation and increasing state control in its manifesto as reasons why voters might have been apprehensive. Even though the EFF had been formed in anger, f
ence-sitters may have been impressed by advocate Dali Mpofu joining its ranks, and advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza defending it.
Floyd Shivambu: The once-fiery face of the ANC Youth League, is developing into a serious political figure at the EFF.
Gender: Although this should have been a major election issue, it has largely been overshadowed.
Only the ANC has made 50/50 representation mandatory, a rule reflected in its slate of candidates for the election. Parties like Agang and the DA had between 30 percent and 36 percent female representation.
Helen Zille: The leader of the DA was the target of relentless criticism by leaders of other parties, particularly the ANC, the SACP and the EFF. They thrived on the pictures of Zille being chased away and pelted with stones by angry farmworkers in the Western Cape. Zille gained a formidable reputation among her fans. Her dalliance with Ramphele was a big mistake.
Intimidation: This was the most disappointing aspect of the election campaign, with the worst criticism of the ANC. There were incidents of violence around the country involving its members on the ground. Although there had been conflict with the IFP 20 years ago, and with Cope in 2009, it seemed an era of intolerance had infected the party this time.
IEC: The number of complaints against the commission’s agents grew in the weeks leading up to the election, against the backdrop of the scandal involving its head, Pansy Tlakula. Parties warned it to be more vigilant in protecting ballots, after ballot books fell off a truck and boxes were found in a party agent’s house.
Julius Malema: With a strong intellectual team behind him, he seems to be developing a different role. The only leader who has properly styled himself as a revolutionary,
Malema still commands a crowd, and has successfully transferred from the ANC Youth League to the EFF. But his legal troubles loomed in the background throughout this campaign and his future hinges on those elements being cleared up.
Jacob Zuma: It didn’t matter that the president’s friendship with the Guptas turned low-key in the headlines. His home, Nkandla, consumed every other issue.
Initially recalcitrant, a few days ago the president told how one of his wives had been raped and about threats made to people living in the compound. Cynics said he played “the rape card”. Nkandla might cost the party votes. The question, though, is: If the ANC has a large decline, will it recall him?
Kenny Kunene: A leader of the Patriotic Alliance with fellow ex-convict Gayton McKenzie. The PA has mostly been campaigning on the Cape Flats and in the Northern Cape, with the disaffected coloured vote in its sights.
Long live Madiba: Nelson Mandela’s spirit underpinned canvassing.
Marikana: The massacre has featured everywhere, used as a tool in opposition party propaganda, and is still uppermost in the nation’s imagination. The EFF saw one of its ads banned from the SABC. The ANC is expected to suffer the consequences in the North West.
Nkandla: Zuma’s homestead in KwaZulu-Natal was at the centre of this election. Some intending to vote against the ANC cited their disgust at how his family improperly benefited from the estimated R246 million which the state spent fortifying his home.
Over the hump: It’s been 20 years of democracy. There are no excuses left.
Pansy Tlakula: Embroiled in court challenges, her reputation damaged, the IEC chair has been very much in the public mind in past weeks. It has detracted from the brand of the IEC.
Queues: Nothing like 1994, they nevertheless revealed an engaged electorate that is determined to vote.
Ronnie Kasrils: On Wednesday, the former intelligence minister and SACP and Umkhonto we Sizwe leader cast his vote against the ANC for the first time. Although castigated by ex-comrades for stirring up dissent, Kasrils and others went on with their Vukani! Vote No! campaign protest over “excessive self-indulgence” at taxpayers’ expense.
SABC: The public broad-caster was taken to task by political parties who believed their election messages were being suppressed. In particular, the DA and the EFF wanted it censured over its decisions not to air adverts which reflected on Nkandla or Marikana. The SABC had claimed these would incite violence.
Thuli Madonsela: The public protector was named one of Time’s top 100 people for her courage and outspokenness around corruption. But even if she had issued a number of reports during the past five years, it was the one into Nkandla which got the international spotlight.
UDF: The United Democratic Front was remembered in political campaigns but attempts to bring its principles back failed.
Vavi: He played a key role in the transition of Cosatu from ANC lapdog to a force with a vitality all of its own. But his political survival is complicated. If he is finally expelled from the federation, he will have to bank on a more radical workers’ movement emerging after this election.
WASP: This small workers’ movement could see itself part of a more important agenda if it plays its cards right. Radicalism is on the rise.
X: What did you do with your X? Where did you place your cross?
Young people: Did not register in the kind of numbers the IEC hoped. A million born-frees were expected to make their cross on Wednesday.
ZCC: The indigenous South African church’s leader, Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane, said people should not vote for “embezzlers” who misused public funds.