With the MF in decline, are Indians bereft of a political home?
AS the day of the 2019 elections looms in South Africa, all political parties are preparing themselves for this important event.
Some are well-established and have loyal voters who continue to vote for them, regardless of the contents of their manifestos.
Others are new and will accept any vote they can get.
But what does the Indian vote mean for South African political parties?
There are two ways in which we could address this question.
Firstly, we could answer the question from a national perspective.
In that case, our focus would be on how the Indian vote could benefit South African political parties internally. Secondly, we could answer this question in the context of international relations.
In that sense, our answer would have to consider South Africa’s BRICS membership, in general, and the country’s relations with India, specifically.
Recent events in the country make the Indian vote difficult to ignore.
Firstly, the demise of the Minority Front deprived the majority of Indian voters of a political home. Other Indian-dominated political parties will count on the Indian vote to bolster their chances of doing well in the elections. In the event that they fail to woo these Indian voters, their chances of making their presence felt in the elections will be significantly reduced.
The unpalatable statements made by the leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, left a bad taste in many Indian voters’ mouths. As such, there is a very slim chance that many Indians would be comfortable with voting for the EFF.
This means that, as much as Indians could increase the EFF’s support, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, this possibility was reduced by Malema’s statements.
With regard to the IFP, the Indian vote means a lot. There have been good relations between many Indians with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as an individual, and with the IFP, as a political party.
The fact that some Indian business people voluntarily made a suit for iNkosi Buthelezi’s 90th birthday serves as evidence of cordial relations between the Indian community and Buthelezi, as well as his party, the IFP.
Therefore, if the IFP is serious about increasing its support in the elections, it is incumbent upon its leaders to build on these already existing relations to woo Indian voters.
Even in the past, the IFP has been well-received whenever it campaigned in many Indian-dominated townships around eThekwini.
The ANC has also benefited from the Indian vote in the past. Both collectively and individually, the ANC has built good relations with the Indian community for decades.
It did not come as a surprise that the ANC and its coalition partners, as well as the ANC-led government, have always included several Indian names.
Some of the best Indian brains - such as Mac Maharaj, Essop Pahad, Pravin Gordhan, Jay Naidoo and others - have played critical roles in government.
This means that an Indian vote is as important to the ANC as it is to the IFP.
Given the fact that KwaZulu-Natal has a large number of the Indian population compared with other provinces, this province will inevitably be the focal point for any political party that is serious about getting an Indian vote.
Following from the above, it goes without saying that even the smaller and new political parties have to take the Indian vote seriously if they hope to make their presence felt.
Failure to do so would mean that their chances of doing well in the elections will be greatly reduced.
But while all the points raised here look at the Indian vote from a national perspective, there is also a much bigger role that the Indian vote plays in South African politics.
The late Mahatma Gandhi laid a solid foundation in terms of linking South Africa and India.
Lately, South Africa’s BRICS membership, and the strong bilateral relations between South Africa and India, both give the Indian vote more impetus. For as long as South African politicians treat Indians with dignity, and as long as Indian voters actively participate in South African politics, these relations are solidified.
In the same vein, if Indian voters do not feature in South African politics and if Indian leaders are not recognised by political parties and the government, these relations run the risk of being weakened.
All of the above lead to one conclusion: the Indian vote means a lot for this country.
The fact that South Africa is the only country in the world with the largest number of Indians outside India means that the Indian vote cannot be ignored.
Similarly, the fact that KwaZulu-Natal is one province that is home to many Indians in South Africa means that the province should be at the vanguard in terms of taking the Indian vote seriously.
* Mngomezulu is a Professor of Political Science and the Deputy Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.