Outdated dominant party model must make way for politics of merit

By Sandile Swana

In 1994, Nelson Mandela’s ANC won a simple majority of 62.65%, although the overall participation was recorded at 77.3%. Within 10 years, former president Thabo Mbeki led the ruling party to a record-setting 69.69% election victory, exceeding the two-thirds majority.

That was not based on his popularity but an unambiguous demonstration of progress, national wealth-creation and productivity by the Mbeki administration and the ANC.

In 1994, the DA, then called Democratic Party, received a mere 1.73% share of the votes, however, within 10 years the number had grown to 12.37%, especially after swallowing the New National Party, resulting in a reconfiguration of white politics in South Africa.

The first 10 years post-1994 democratic dispensation were largely a prosperous period.

Those who had any type of asset-based riches galloped in wealth stakes, and white South Africans became extraordinarily wealthy because of their asset ownership base.

The decisive factor in this picture was the ANC elective conference in 2007 in Polokwane which was followed by the 2009 elections.

The ANC dropped from 69.69% to 65.90% although we were told that former president Jacob Zuma, the face of the campaign at the time, was the best campaigner.

The DA’s share of the spoils soared from 12.37% to 16.66% and the ANC politics were visibly fracturing with COPE and UDM flexing their muscles on the national political stage.

However, the country’s two largest parties still controlled more than 80% of the vote, with the ANC still boasting a clear majority in the 2009 elections.

The DA won the Western Cape convincingly also due to deep divisions in the ANC.

It has managed to hang on to power in the province since 2009 but will be seriously challenged by Patriotic Alliance and its allies, especially the ANC, in the 2024 elections.

The trend going into the 2024 elections is downwards for the ANC having achieved 69.69% in 2004; 65.90% in 2009; 62.1% in 2014; and 57.5% in 2019.

The decisive statistic supported by several polls is that the ANC received 45.59% and the DA achieved 21.62% in the 2021 local government elections.

This signals that the two largest parties control above 60% of the vote and not the 80% plus they enjoyed in previous election years.

At the same time, in the metros other than Cape Town, Buffalo City and Mangaung, at least 80 municipalities are hung and need coalitions to form governments.

The reconfiguration of South African politics going into 2024 is that no single party enjoys a majority nationally, and the three main provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Gauteng – are likely to be governed by coalitions.

The voters have rejected the dominant-party model which has largely ruined South Africa from 1948 to 2023, with the National Party in control for 46 years until its ousting in 1994.

There is not one province in the country where the National Development Plan targeted 5.4% per average gross domestic product (GDP) growth was achieved. The entire nation under both the DA and ANC has been performing in the 2% to zero GDP growth rate zone.

The country’s unemployment level is supposed to be in the 2% to 5% region.

In the Western Cape, the DA is battling about 20% unemployment rate, which is dismal, but in all the ANC-governed provinces, the picture is grimmer.

Most municipalities and state-owned companies have been rendered dysfunctional since the 2009 elections including the SA Post Office, Transnet, Passenger Rail Agency of SA, Airports Company South Africa, SAA, Eskom, Armscor, Denel and many others.

Inequality has worsened rapidly since 2009 and has accelerated to record levels under President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The cost of living and unemployment are both out of control.

All of this has caused a severe lack of trust and a huge legitimacy crisis for the ANC and the DA, and the ruling party has not proven that it is capable to rescue the majority of black people from poverty.

The workings of the new order are that each item must be debated and agreed on merit and not railroaded by the so-called majority party.

No party that has achieved less than 50% in the 2024 election has any moral right to form a government, because that is proof enough to show it has been rejected by the majority of voters.

The key point to consider is that all parties must accept collective government and be faithful to the percentage of votes they receive. Any provincial or national cabinet must be chosen only on merit, including the president of the country.

The ANC and the DA have no obligation to provide South Africa with a president, but any person of merit must be elected to the office of the president.

Swana is a member of the 70s Group and a political analyst. 

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