AUBREY MATSHIQI: Elephant will ignore the DA 'ant' at its own peril
LAST Monday, this column ended with the following prophecy: "We must not rule out the possibility that many coloured voters will perform the contradictory act of distancing themselves from the African National Congress (ANC) by voting for (Tony) Ehrenreich."
In the race for Cape Town, voters decided it was not enough to distance themselves from the ANC. They also said "voetsek!" to Ehrenreich, the mayoral candidate of the ANC. Cape Town and the Western Cape are now blue with ANC blood after the ruling party suffered its heaviest defeat in that part of the country since 1994.
The Democratic Alliances's (DA's) victory can be explained in many ways, but I will share only a few with you today.
First, voters are trying to embarrass me. Second, the DA fought a positive and effective campaign. Third, delivery does speak louder than words.
But it seems that the most important challenge that the ANC failed to deal with is what may be a growing gap between the political interests of black and coloured working-class communities, and a stronger convergence between the political interests of affluent and poor areas. Clearly, the candidacy of Ehrenreich, who is a working-class hero, proved to be a blunt weapon against these dynamics.
Now that I have wiped the Cape Town egg off my face, let's look at the rest of the country.
It must be obvious by now that you should insulate yourself from the blind spots of political commentators given the fact that we were, once again, hopelessly wrong about the voter turnout.
But there are other dangers. The most pernicious in the days to come will be spin.
I am talking about how political parties are going to select only those facts about the election results that support their claims. They will minimise the gains of their opponents and exaggerate theirs. That is why in the weeks to come you will have to rely on the careful and objective analysis of . political commentators, of course.
For instance, the DA claims that the increase in its share of the national popular vote from 14,77% in 2006 to 24% in this year's local government elections is an indication of gains it has made in ANC strongholds. The truth, however, is that, as significant as the performance of the DA was in this election, it remains a pony to the extent that the election was largely a two-horse race.
The fact that opposition parties combined garnered 38% of the vote suggests that the ANC succeeded in holding on to the vast majority of black voters, despite service delivery protests and rumblings in some communities about ANC candidates.
But the ANC must recognise the fact that most of the 42% of registered voters who stayed at home are its supporters. While some may be apathetic, many are disgusted with lack of delivery, the arrogance and embarrassing conduct of some of its leaders, and the gap between the principles of the liberation movement and what the ANC has become.
It does not help to accuse the DA of stealing ANC icons when all it is doing is to admit that the ANC was on the right side all along.
Why was the ANC so threatened by the hegemony of its own ideas and legacy when these were embraced by the DA during the election campaign? Could it be that some in the ANC recognise the possibility that other political parties may succeed in appropriating its space in our struggle heritage if black people exercise their free political will because of some of the nonsense that is going on in the ANC today? Therefore, the ANC must do an honest assessment of the local government election results and avoid being too sanguine about its national share of the popular vote.
While some of the DA's claims about what it has achieved remain extravagant, there is no doubt that some of the micro trends should be the cause of worry among ANC strategists.
In relation to black voters, the DA may be an ant, but it can do untold damage to the elephant if it reaches its brain by crawling up its trunk.
. Matshiqi is Research Fellow at the Helen Suzman Foundation.
More in this section
- Disillusioned SA will learn to walk like Egyptians
- Chaskalson transcended his bias and loyalties
- EDITORIAL: The problem with ANC branches
- People were central to Chaskalson’s endeavours
- THICK END OF THE WEDGE: Zuma’s Get Out of Jail Free card
- NEWS ANALYSIS: ANC’s winner in Mangaung may still lack legitimacy