Opposition poses no real threat to ANC

This year’s elections will leave opposition parties yearning for more than they could get from the results when the ANC emerges victorious, says the writer.

This year’s elections will leave opposition parties yearning for more than they could get from the results when the ANC emerges victorious, says the writer.

Published Jan 29, 2024


Yonela Toshḙ-Mlambo

This year’s elections will leave opposition parties yearning for more than they could get from the results when the ANC emerges victorious.

Among the many factors that will make the ANC win is the lack of coherent and substantive opposition, and popular politics, ie, the now-vague anti-corruption campaign, with no concrete plans on how to arrest graft.

Out of 15 863 558 voters in 2004, the ANC won 10 880 915 (69.7%), leaving the opposition parties to scramble with 30.3% of the votes. This was a decisive victory for the party and confidence in President Thabo Mbeki, notwithstanding popular claims that the second administration was aloof.

An important lesson from the 2004 victory is that South Africans are people of substance as far as politics is concerned. That is why large numbers rejected Tony Leon, the then leader of the official opposition party, the DA’s divisive racial politics to garner white electoral support, and the late Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi's ethno-nationalism politics. Thus, the ANC won KZN with a clear majority.

That outcome was a clear demonstration, and perhaps a lesson to other opposition parties that South Africans reject racial and ethno-nationalist politics.

Leading up to the fourth administration, a rhetoric (President of People) emerged and ethno-nationalist politics engulfed the landscape, leading to a decrease of the ANC’s electoral support to 65.9%. The official opposition party (DA) increased from 12% to 16%, largely because Zille's patronising; non-racial and united SA was at a rudimentary stage.

This gained momentum with the election of Lindiwe Mazibuko as leader of the opposition in Parliament, and had a positive impact on the DA’s 2014 electoral support. Then ANC Youth League President Julius Malema’s unrefined politics, coated in radicalism, coupled with Zuma scandals and corruption saga cases, contributed to the electoral increment of DA support, in particular white voters’ support, in 2014.

The ANC’s support continued to decline in 2014, largely because Malema was expelled and subsequently established the EFF in 2013, which won 6% of the vote.

Leading to the 2019 general elections, Zuma’s corruption cases further tarnished the ANC’s electoral support, thus winning 57% of the national vote.

The party’s electoral decline saw the emergence of politics of symbolism (“2024 is our 1994”), euphoria and overzealous descent, with almost all opposition parties represented in the National Assembly. Among others, ActionSA congregated under the “Moonshot Pact” banner, led by official opposition leader John Steenhuisen to gang up against the ANC to form a coalition government.

The fundamental principle of the Moonshot Pact (from the perspective of the opposition parties) is that they can work together to unseat the ANC.

But the ANC is going to witness victory in this year’s general elections. It has not often experienced more than 5% electoral decline, with the exception of the 2019 general elections.

Therefore, if we can predict its performance this year, we can say it would comfortably yield 52%. But if its decline continues at the same rate as in the 2019 general elections, it could yield at least 48%. This would mean that it would not need any of the Moonshot Pact parties to form a government. However, it would then form a coalition with its “satellite” political parties, the likes of the Good Party. The ANC has mastered the art of creating “satellite” political parties.

It won’t need any of the Moonshot Pact political parties to form a government, and prospects are that some political parties in the Moonshot Pact, like the UDF, will either return to Parliament with two seats or one, therefore lacking any political influence.

The ANC, despite the corruption allegations of its leaders from branch to national level, have the upper hand largely because opposition parties pose no significant threat.

Opposition parties often cite the slogan when campaigning: “We want to unseat the corrupt ANC”. However, none of them gives South Africans a concrete plan for how to deal with corruption, with some of their leaders also accused of corruption.

The failures of substantive opposition parties continue to contribute to the ANC’s victory.

Toshḙ-Mlambo is a freelance socio-political commentator

Cape Times