Despite being a ritual, elections provide new insights into the state of citizens and the political elite. Life changes, for better or for worse. The election results are a statement about how citizens feel at the time and indicate their inclination to take charge of their future.
The level of participation and the political decisions that voters make indicate whether citizens have resigned themselves to their problems or are actively seeking solutions. And the 2021 local government elections in South Africa they undoubtedly have more to do with citizenship than with the political elite.
Most of the municipalities are in a worse situation than at the beginning of the mandate of this administration in 2016-17.
Some municipalities in rural areas and small towns were always expected to be worse off than others. Your income base is small and therefore cannot meet all your needs. But government grants are available to provide new infrastructure and free services to the homeless.
The root causes of deterioration are not structural and are beyond your control. They are man-made. Most barely spend their grants in full. What they certainly excel at is the payment of wages, including the payment of overtime that can hardly be proven or justified. This happens even at the expense of paying major service providers. as Eskom, the energy company. The consequence is the lack of both energy and new infrastructure, while the existing infrastructure degenerates. And the repercussions don’t end there. Even self-generated income is threatened.
Last June, Clover, the cheese company, closed its largest factory in Lichtenburg, North West province. Clover explained the decision to relocate:
For years, the Lichtenburg factory has been experiencing water and power outages and the municipality has not maintained the surrounding infrastructure. Despite numerous efforts to involve the municipality in these matters, the problems have not been resolved.
This means loss of jobs and income for the municipality of Ditsobotla. Because the existing infrastructure is maintained on self-generated revenue, the municipality’s ability to fulfill this task is further eroded. This is a common story in most cities. It is a vicious circle.
However, a deterioration in the quality of life does not necessarily translate into a loss of interest in voting. Participation in the last elections of 2016 was the highest, in 58%. Although a small improvement from 57.11% in 2011, it maintained an upward movement that began in 2011.
That 57.11% turnout represented a whopping 9% jump over the two previous elections. It is true that the level of voter registration in this election, at 65% of eligible voters, compared to 75% in 2016, is disturbing. It also didn’t help that the campaign period was shortened. But the compressed campaign period due to COVID-19 does not appear to have translated into lower visibility. Instead, the parties seem to have been campaigning almost every day since the beginning of this month.
In addition to vigorous campaigns, the staggering growth in the number and variety of candidates and parties can improve turnout. The number of parties competing in these elections has increased from 205 in 2016 to 325. The number of independents has also almost doubled to 1,546 of the previous election.
The Ramaphosa factor
New contestants can attract new voters to the polls. The prospects of independents winning are much higher this time than before, when they barely registered a dent. Its relative failure has been due to a lack of support, both organizational and financial. They now appear to have both, including election campaign training, provided by the A SA movement by Mmusi Maimane, former leader of the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance. Maimane’s organization has more than 300 independents.
Independents obviously hope to capitalize on the widespread mistrust of political parties. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been the hardest hit by the Lack of trust in parties. This is a hangover from the Jacob Zuma years.
The ANC protected him despite his many minor offences and finally they were forced by popular unrest to let it go.
Fortunately for the party, its current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a better approval rating than the organization. This explains why the party was not interested, this time, in announcing mayoral candidates. In the last election, mayoral candidates were announced early in part to make up for Zuma’s unpopularity. The mayoral candidates became the face of the party in their localities. Now Ramaphosa’s face is the only one on the party posters and t-shirts.
It remains to be seen if Ramaphosa’s approval rating rubs off on the party. He was able to improve his party’s fortunes in the 2019 national elections until 57%, from the 54% had won in the 2016 local elections. Previous electoral trends had shown that national and electoral results were not very different from each other. Therefore, the 57% count that the ANC obtained in 2019 was an improvement.
However, times have changed. Shortly after Zuma’s removal, Ramaphosa’s approval ratings had a lot to do with a sense of relief and his motivation. renewal message. The changes that followed quickly, especially the new appointments in state institutions, raised the public’s spirits and created a sense of optimism. However, the reforms have not been consistent nor have they been felt throughout the government. Revelations of corruption from Ramaphosa’s own high-ranking allies, such as Zweli Mkhize and Oscar mabuyane, creates some doubt that you are succeeding in instilling ethical leadership in your party.
What further complicates Ramaphosa’s mission is the dearth of ethical leaders within the ANC in several municipalities. In this last financial year alone, the auditor general tells us that officials, politicians and their families won contracts worth about R2 billion (US $ 132 million).
They manipulated the process to benefit themselves, which explains why the municipality of Enoch Mgijima can unveil open ground that pretends to be a stadium worth 15 million rand (about US $ 1 million). Ramaphosa’s message of a renewed ANC does not resonate with local experience, nor is it reflected in the caliber of leaders at the local level. Even the respected former vice president of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, had a difficult time making sure the right candidates were selected. Riot, riots and violent killings tarnished the party’s selection process. These are hardly signs of a renewed party that inspires optimism.
What to expect
But the ANC has nothing to fear from its biggest rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The official opposition is consolidating as a party of minorities and conservative voters. This was recently stated when he issued racially insensitive posters, and their leader seemed to approve of a radio host’s proposal. dismissal of a black woman’s experience of racism.
Julius Malema, leader of the third largest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), benefits from “white denialism”. It encourages bitterness over the failures of the post-apartheid agreement, which the party offers to mitigate “cutting the throat of whiteness”. But the party’s limited appeal to young people (under 30), who is a marginal segment of registered voters at about 15%, restricts its growth.
This election is likely to produce multiple winners, rather than allowing one party to win significantly. New entrants are likely to be the big winners. Although some may be motivated by financial gain, the growing and diverse number of contestants shows a citizenry that is unwilling to leave its fate in the hands of ineffective incumbents. Voters will most likely take advantage of the widest variety of parties while exploring different remedies to their difficulties.