Last October, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said that results indicating that support for the ruling party were below 60% would mark a “psychological and political turning point”. That moment has now arrived.
Although the ANC retained massive support in rural South Africa, its losses in urban areas were shocking and comprehensive. Just ten years ago, the ANC got 66.3% votes nationwide. Last week, the party struggled to reach just under 54%
Commentators the world over have weighed in with opinions about what this electoral defeat means for South Africa’s democracy.
“The results may even mark the start of a new era‚ distinct from the ‘post-apartheid’ period that immediately followed the end of white minority rule‚ as the ANC wakes up to the changed reality that it can no longer rely on the unquestioning support of poor black voters,” The East African stated. According to The Guardian, “there is a deeper trend that points to some of the paradoxes of SA’s transition. The failure to spread access to the good life — to schools and healthcare and work — is obvious. People look around after more than 20 years of one-person‚ one-vote and see that opportunities have gone to some‚ while many others are still on the sidelines.”
“The decline in support for the ANC was especially sharp in the nation’s eight major cities‚ where a growing number of black‚ middle-class voters turned against the politics of patronage personified by Zuma and increasingly resisted the ANC’s emotive appeals to its heroic past,” wrote Nigeria Today.
The results of the 2016 local municipal election were the “clever blacks” having their revenge on President Zuma, according to political commentator Justice Malala, quoting former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, a businessman and former Zuma ally. “We need to accept the reality that there are many young people who voted for the DA. Where do these people come from? They left the ANC and why did they leave the ANC? The clever blacks have spoken... The masses are punishing us with the weapon we won for them. The vote,” Phosa said.
The term ‘clever blacks’ was coined in 2012, when Zuma insulted urban blacks “who become too clever”, saying: “They become the most eloquent in criticising themselves about their own traditions and everything.”
Those “clever blacks” joined the ranks of progressive South Africans of all races, religions and creeds in showing their dissatisfaction with current state of affairs in the country. Their votes indicated that the corruption scandals, infighting and splits that have become common practice for the ANC are no longer acceptable to the electorate. Their votes indicated that the country’s current economic mismanagement is affecting all walks of life.
The fact that the main liberation movement of the biggest demographic in the country lost such ground is testament to the fact that South Africans will take poor leadership for only so long. The 2019 general elections look set to be even more interesting, as South Africans continue to find their voice against mismanagement and corruption.