August election: Danger of ANC repeating Oudtshoorn disaster, refuses to go

At the London School of Economics last week, the Leader of South Africa’s Official Opposition Mmusi Maimane opined that the real test of a democracy is not just free and fair elections. It is, rather, what happens after a ruling party loses one of those elections. Especially in Africa where the citizens have found it difficult to rely on ballot boxes to Liberate themselves from the original Liberators. Opinion polls ahead of SA’s August 3 municipal elections suggests the principle is really going to be put to the test this year. The DA’s former Chief Whip, Douglas Gibson, applies his mind to the matter, wondering whether the ruling ANC will pass it – or repeat the Oudtshoorn debacle where its councillors simply refused to vacate their offices. If that becomes the norm, the consequences could trigger a crisis of confidence that would make Nenegate seem mild. – Alec Hogg

By Douglas Gibson*

British Prime Minister David Cameron acted in the highest tradition of democracy on Friday. Having narrowly lost the referendum on remaining in or leaving the European Union, he appeared outside 10 Downing Street within an hour of the final result being declared and announced his resignation. He stated that the British electorate had spoken and that their decision had to be respected. No tears, no hesitation; just a commitment to democratic accountability and to doing the right thing.

Watch: David Cameron’s resignation speech, taking honourable route

Will the African National Congress (ANC) observe the same democratic practice if the voters of Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Metro and Johannesburg put the Democratic Alliance (DA) in power?

Douglas Gibson: Being exposed to national treasures, great roads, on a road trip through Limpopo
The DA’s former Chief Whip, Douglas Gibson.

The latest eNCA poll shows that, at this stage at least, in all three of these cities, the ANC is running behind the DA in voter support. Whether the DA will be able to command a majority in all these councils, or some of them, or will have to forge coalition administrations, only time will tell.

Currently, in Johannesburg, the ANC stands at 31%, the DA at 32%, the EFF at 9% and the Don’t know/Won’t say is 18%.

In the Nelson Mandela Metro, 27% will vote for the ANC, 37% for the DA, 9% for the EFF and the Don’t know/refused is 17%.

In Tshwane, the ANC stands at 27%, the DA at 36%, the EFF at 9% and the Don’t know/refused at 18%.

If the election took placed today, the ANC would have difficulty in winning a further term in any of these cities and the prospects look very promising for the DA.

The ANC needs to reflect about how it will react to rejection by the voters.  Will it pull an Oudtshoorn?  There it lost the majority and it simply refused to vacate the mayoral office, subjecting that city to a downward spiral of neglect and corrupt misgovernment.

This question is an important one, for two main reasons. The first is this. There is a plague of lawlessness sweeping across parts of South Africa; some people feel entitled to burn and pillage at will, destroying public property and even killing those who disagree. 

Read also: Sell: August ‘biggest’ election since 1994 – no such thing as ‘wasted vote’.

We saw what happened in Vuwani where many schools were burnt down, ostensibly because of unhappiness among the “people” about the delimitation of local authority boundaries. Now it seems the people had little to do with it; ANC internal factions competing for influence and power were largely responsible and that instigated and fanned the flames.

We saw Tshwane citizens go into revolt because they don’t care for the mayoral candidate imposed on them by the ANC. Will we see a repeat performance, perhaps far worse, when the voters choose the DA candidate? One hears that the inner turmoil in the ANC is a reflection of factions straining to get their turn at the feeding trough and that ordinary citizens reject the violence and mayhem. The minister of State Security, Daniel Mahlobo, says he knows the names of those stoking the unrest. What is he doing about it?

The ANC, ruling the country and the province, even if rejected at city level, will still be in charge of the police, the army and the intelligence services. Will they use them to facilitate a democratic transition of power? Will they demonstrate their adherence to democratic norms and to the Rule of Law by restoring order where this is necessary?

This brings us to the second point. The support of the ANC government and its political structures, as well as President Zuma, for the Rule of Law is looking decidedly weak.

Read also: Silke: Tshwane violence represents what’s wrong with SA. A flash-forward to August.

The list is as long as your arm. Who remembers that the ANC Youth League accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being a CIA spy? That was a criminal defamation, if there ever was one. The president said nothing. 

Who remembers that a former president of the ANCYL, Julius Malema, was allowed to say that, “We will kill for Zuma,” without any remonstration from Mr Zuma? Or that he was able to hound a sitting president out of office?

The president appointed Sbu Ndebele as the high commissioner to Australia, well-knowing that there were very serious allegations about his integrity, or lack of it. No one seemed to care that our relations with an important ally and Commonwealth co-member could be disturbed by sending to them a representative who now faces criminal charges and who cannot be an effective face of our country until his trial is over.

The minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has been forgiven by the president for flouting South African law and using a SANDF aircraft to break the law by bringing in her late son’s girlfriend, not permitted by our law to come here. She ought to face criminal charges.

We all remember the breach of the Rule of Law over President Omar al- Bashir of Sudan; the irrational decision to appoint a flawed candidate to the position of Head of the National Prosecuting Authority and the illegal and unconstitutional – and disgraceful – ignoring of the recommendations of the Public Protector over Nkandla. Then what of the state capture by the president’s best friends, the Guptas; the sale of our reserve stocks of fuel at a bargain basement price and without observing the Treasury regulations and the disastrous misrule at SAA by the president’s close friend, Dudu Myeni who claimed a degree she did not possess.

There is no end to the contempt for the Rule of Law and the corruption benefiting the connected and the careerists who see public office as the key to riches.

The voters must be properly informed before the election. Will this be an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and replace failed administrations or will the ANC ignore the Rule of Law and refuse to heed the voice of the voters?

  • Douglas Gibson is a former Opposition Chief Whip and former ambassador to Thailand. This article first appeared in The Star, Mercury and Pretoria News newspapers.
Visited 55 times, 1 visit(s) today