Fighting for free and fair elections – the battle has begun

The biggest test for any emerging democracy comes when the “party of liberation” faces electoral defeat.

a democracy

Some countries – like Zimbabwe – have repeatedly failed that test. Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has done whatever it takes to rig every election to stay in power. Others, like Zambia, have changed governments several times, relatively peacefully, through the ballot box.

Unfortunately, failed transitions to democracy on our continent have outnumbered the successes.

Which list will South Africa join?

Till now, I have been confident that we would count among the successes. In fact, the ANC has already been removed from a seat of power through an election.

This happened in Cape Town in 2006, when the DA won 42% of the vote and managed to put together a fragile seven-party governing coalition. The experience of DA government was sufficiently positive to result in an outright victory for the DA (51.5% compared to the ANC’s 31.6%) in the 2009 provincial elections.

By 2011 the DA governed 29 local authorities in four provinces (some in coalitions).

Last year’s general election gave the ANC the fright of its life, because the result showed how far the DA’s potential extended beyond the Western Cape, into the heartland of South Africa’s economy. In fact, for the first time, the ANC fell below 50% of the vote in both Nelson Mandela Metro (Port Elizabeth) and Tshwane (Pretoria). In Johannesburg, the ANC managed just 52.3% of the vote and emerged looking distinctly vulnerable.

It would be naïve to expect the ANC to be complacent at the prospect of further losses in the 2016 local government elections, now just over a year away. It is worth recalling how the ANC responded to its Cape Town defeat. Convinced that the voters had erred in electing opposition parties, the ANC tried repeatedly, and often illegally, to bring down the DA coalition. Eventually the Courts put an end to the ANC’s illegal “coup” attempts.

After its defeat in Cape Town and the Western Cape, the ANC turned to the unbridled use of the “race card” to prevent any more DA victories. Its crude strategy is to divide people on the basis of race, by distorting every event and issue to convince voters that the DA is “for whites” and that the ANC is “for blacks” (broadly defined). As in all parts of the world, this guttural appeal to ethnic nationalism has found traction.

But the ANC’s “divide-and-rule” strategy is losing impact. This is partly the result of the “power of example” where the DA is in government. We are able to expose the ANC’s lie that the DA would “bring back apartheid” or “take away people’s grants and pensions” if we won elections. In fact, more and more people are realising that the result of a DA election victory is more effective service delivery, in the interests of the poor.

So the ANC has to change gear if it wishes to implement its “win at all cost” strategy in 2016. During the past few weeks, three deeply disturbing trends have emerged.  These are:

  •  The manipulation of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
  • The manipulation of municipal boundaries, and
  • The diversion of state funds for the ANC’s campaign.

To read more. click here

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