ANC MP Faiez Jacobs has accused the governing party of abandoning coloured, Indian and white voters and warned that it could lose out on their electoral support in next year’s crucial national and provincial polls.
The former ANC Western Cape provincial secretary said the party could miss out on up to 1% of votes from what he described as “non-African” voters – coloureds, Indians and whites – if it did not return to the non-racialism that characterised it in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It may be argued that diversity and inclusivity are the defining characters of the ANC as a ‘broad church’ and that the dilution and departure from this over the past three decades of democracy, is as inimical to its character as the loss of values, corruption and the capture of its soul by those driven by careerism and self-enrichment,” Jacobs said.
He said minorities felt aggrieved that their cause was not effectively championed and prioritised by the ANC and that as co-creators of the new democracy and their historical participation in the liberation struggle was not sufficiently recognised.
Jacobs said expanding the ANC’s appeal in predominantly “non-African” wards had the potential to expand its supporter base as it would provide the party with access to a wider range of perspectives and ideas that could contribute to its growth and development.
“It’s convenient to forget that such unity and diversity was germane to the Mass Democratic Movement in the 1980s and early 1990s and reflected in the make-up of the first democratic Cabinet and the ANC’s deployments across all organs of state and parastatals,” he said.
According to Jacobs, in the ANC’s recent history there had been a “very conspicuous loss of diversity and inclusivity in its leadership echelons of both party and state” and that attracting new supporters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds could increase its electoral appeal and competitiveness and ensure its continued relevance in the country’s dynamic political landscape.
At its national conference in December last year, the only “non-African” leaders that the ANC delegates had directly elected to its powerful 87-member national executive committee were then Luthuli House general manager Febe Potgieter, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy and then Western Cape interim provincial coordinator Ronalda Nalumango.
In January, after a public outcry, the ANC was forced to co-opt deputy international relations and cooperation minister Alvin Botes, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s parliamentary counsellor Gerhard Koornhof, former eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer and SA National AIDS Council deputy chairperson Steve Mapaseka Letsike to its highest decision-making body in between national conferences.
Their co-option was an attempt “to provide for a balanced representation of the true character of the South African people”.
Jacobs said these communities’ feeling of exclusion was a major threat and the sense that current affirmative action measures were unevenly applied, and in some cases prejudicial and remains a sore point requiring urgent intervention.
“Another challenge the ANC will face is balancing the needs of its traditional African constituencies with those of the new supporters it seeks to attract from non-African wards. To achieve this balance, the party must develop policies and initiatives that benefit all South Africans, regardless of race or ethnicity,” Jacobs said.
He said one of the key challenges the ANC would face in engaging predominantly “non-African” wards was overcoming historical mistrust and negative perceptions.
Jacobs expressed his confidence that the approach he was proposing would gain more traction as the ANC’s declining electoral performance edged closer to the 50% threshold, where the power of marginal players often assumes the position of king-makers.
He said 1% support from outside the ANC’s traditional support base can help clinch control in an election.
Professor Zwelinzima Ndevu, director of Stellenbosch University’s School of Public Leadership, said this was not a new call, especially in the Western Cape.
“You would remember the election of (former ANC Western Cape provincial chairperson Marius) Fransman and Jacobs was based on the same question, this didn’t help the ANC to return (to govern) the province.
“The only thing that would help the ANC is to come up with a clear plan on addressing the challenges of inequality in the Western Cape,” Ndevu said, adding that this included creating job opportunities for the poor and improving conditions of farm workers.
North West University political analyst Professor Andre Duvenage agreed with Jacobs, saying the ANC was becoming more and more racially orientated.
“Although they (ANC) say they are non-racial, non-sexist (and) united, they are openly and in legislation discriminating against minority groups – Indians, whites and coloureds. I have no doubt about it, and for me that is a major defection from the old Freedom Charter and in that sense I think Jacobs is 100% right,” he said.
Duvenage said the ANC’s policies are not aligned with its central mission of a united, non-racial and non-sexist democratic society and predicted that it is going to pay the penalty for this in the 2024 elections.
”The ANC is in trouble, their leadership is some of the poorest we have seen in the history of that organisation and it’s absolutely clear to me that they are not able to deal with South Africa’s challenges. They would rather see how they can benefit themselves in terms of the corrupt structures, and the constituency is reacting accordingly,” he said.
Dr Protas Madlala, a KwaZulu-Natal-based political analyst, said he understood Jacobs’s concerns, but noted that the United Democratic Front (UDF) was never a political party but a broad mass movement of people and organisations including NGOs, churches etc whose common goal was to overthrow brutal and evil apartheid system.
“The current leadership profile is largely due to how ANC select delegates to its national conference and most of those never lived through the harsh apartheid nor did they ever experience the non-racial spirit of the UDF times,” Madlala said.