Beware of ANC proxy parties

By Nicholas Woode-Smith

A vote for an opposition party should be sacred. But unfortunately, it may not be in South Africa. Voters need to be aware that a vote for some parties may end up being a vote for the ANC. If their goal is to be represented properly and to work towards a safer, stabler, and better country for all, all voters will need to become more discerning with who they throw their support behind.

The recent collapse of the once DA-led coalition in Johannesburg is an excellent example of how the ruling ANC uses smaller parties as proxies to do its bidding. The DA’s mayor, Mpho Phalatse, was ousted as mayor on the 26th of January after a vote of no confidence. Subsequently, Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad was elected mayor by the ANC and EFF.

While Amad may hold the mayorship, it is at the behest of two much larger parties. Perhaps, this is to allow the ANC and EFF to rule without the risk of being tarnished by a terrible job? If Amad and Al Jama-ah perform badly, they will be tarred and feathered. This is despite the ANC and EFF holding much more power over the municipality.

But do not be deceived. Al Jama-ah is not in charge. And I doubt it has any real independence. And why should they? They received only 1% of the votes in Johannesburg. Far from any real mandate from the voting public.

If Al Jama-ah really think they deserve the mayorship, they are truly deluded. But I suspect that they are aware of their situation.

Amad and his party have become willing puppets of the ANC. Perhaps, not even an ANC coalition. For, I cannot see the ANC compromising on any issue when it is so used to being the hegemonic power in the country.

When voters put their trust in Al Jama-ah, did they truly wish for it to become a puppet of the ANC? Isn’t it the purpose of an opposition party to erode the power of a dominant ruling party?

Al Jama-ah has also dedicated itself to going into an alliance with the ANC and EFF to break the DA’s hold over the Western Cape. The only province that functions at all reasonably well, I might add.

 A vote for Al Jama-ah, at least in the Western Cape and Johannesburg, has proven to actually mean a vote for the ANC. Al Jama-ah is merely an arm of the ANC to appeal to a demographic that may not otherwise support the ANC. This sort of deception is disgusting and flies in the face of democracy.

This is not to mention the Patriotic Alliance and how its opportunism and corruption led to the collapse of the DA-led coalition in Johannesburg in the first place. The Patriotic Alliance is a tiny party with only 2.8% of the vote in Johannesburg. Yet, it used its role in a minority coalition to threaten its partners and extort increasingly unacceptable concessions.

The Patriotic Alliance had already tried to oust Mpho Phalatse last year, being promised extra portfolios from the ANC. In the run-up to the successful vote of no confidence on the 26th of January, the Patriotic Alliance attempted to force the DA to match the ANC’s offers and then some – demanding control of the Department of Economic Development.

The DA wisely rejected this compromise. One shouldn’t negotiate with extortionists and opportunists. They’ll just keep taking more and more. Never legitimise their greed and corruption.

Yet, the ANC is right at home working with the corrupt and the opportunistic. And they don’t care about handing bribes and positions of power to cronies. They know that the wealth isn’t their own anyway. What is a bit more of lost tax money among friends?

I suspect there are many more proxy parties and officials who pose as opposition parties but truly exist to do the ANC’s bidding or hope to jump on the corruption gravy train. They will do anything to gain a quick buck or a petty position – even if that means handing South Africa’s largest city back to the party that put it on the path to ruin.

The EFF is a bit more complicated. It has its own power base and leadership with a bit more acumen and influence than the minnow parties sucking up to the ruling party. Yet, the EFF and ANC are natural allies as can be seen with the state of Johannesburg post-Phalatse’s ejection.

The EFF is functionally a splinter of the ANC. It was founded by the ex-leader of the ANC Youth League and formed as a result of factional conflict within the ANC. It makes sense that the EFF will always find some sort of kinship with the ANC. If not puppets, then at least allies.

2024 is closer than we think, and the battle for South Africa’s future is already in full swing. Johannesburg is lost. Erkuheleni is probably next. Opposition coalitions are collapsing. Perhaps, they were broken from the start, for they had to rely on partnering with untrustworthy parties that have since proven to not have the interests of their voters or South Africans at heart.

Going forward, we all must keep our guard up. Opposition coalitions must be strict with their partners, entering into binding agreements and ensuring that bad actors aren’t allowed into the fold. And voters must hold their parties to account.

If we punish parties like the Patriotic Alliance and Al Jama-ah at the polls come 2024, it will be a great signal to all parties that corrupt dealings with the party that is destroying this country will not be tolerated. Perhaps then, we can start to rebuild this country.

Nicholas Woode-Smith is a political analyst, historian, and author from Cape Town.

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