South Africa: The Road to the 2019 Elections looks more slippery and unpredictable
It is that time in the life of our beloved country that politicians take voters seriously. The voter suddenly, is once more regarded as the prime mover of our democratic order. Political parties are jostling for the much needed numbers in order to ensure that they return to the hallowed walls of parliament. The political landscape is getting murkier by the day and no politician is prepared to be left behind. The wheels of democracy are grinding slowly towards the decisive moment in which the voter is the main adjudicator.
From the Government of National Unity (GNU), in 1994 through to the leading role of the African National Congress, a lot has been scratched on the transformation front. The disappearance of the defunct National Party from the political scene exacerbated challenges in relation to the overall transformation agenda. The many concessions made at the negotiating table resulting in the adoption of the national constitution presented a stiff political conundrum which required consistent focus and determination from the key role players. In essence, the ANC had to reinvent an approach necessary to keep the transformation effort intact. Unfortunately, the ANC seemed to have taken a political holiday thereby opening massive cracks in the shaping up of the transformation processes.
Working on the basis of the foundations laid by the supremacy of the constitution, our country continues to define its future. Political parties are thus enjoined to the common contract of the centrality of the constitution with the people at the apex of the nation building project. The aforesaid scratching continues to be attempted albeit under challenging conditions of differing views as to the correct path towards the creation of a better life for all the people. Electioneering turns as always to undermine the wisdom of the voter. It is at this time of voter-wooing that political parties are tested to the limit. At the moment, the major political parties are tussling for hegemony that would attract the trust of the people especially the voters.
The departure of the NP from the political scene opened an opportunity for the Democratic Alliance to occupy such an important position. The onus is on the voter to measure the extent with which the DA handled this position particularly as it relates to transformation. The DA is unfortunately associated with white supremacy albeit the fact that it has garnered a lot of black support over the years and its President is a young black male. It is now facing a barrage of accusations of undermining its black support base and its handling of the former Mayor of Cape Town Ms. Patricia de Lille deepened its crisis.
The Economic Freedom Fighters entered the Fifth Parliament in 2014 on the back of its stellar performance after it garnered 6.35 % of the votes thus becoming the third largest political party. Its presence was immediately felt when it started probing difficult matters especially the many scandals that bedeviled former President Jacob Zuma. The arrival of the EFF changed the complexion of parliament. The land question was given traction when the EFF tabled a motion and the ANC was left with no option but to endorse it. The EFF continues to press for radical transformation of all strategic areas especially on the economic front.
From 1994 to date, the country’s transformation agenda has blown hot and cold. It is indisputable that a lot has been achieved mainly at a political level. It is comforting to see that the constitution is still regarded as the supreme law of the country. Parties have demonstrated their strengths and weaknesses and voters will have a clear picture as to which one gets their trust and confidence. It is no longer about speculation but a reality of purpose as the country’s constitutionalism gains momentum and the dynamics of democratization mature. The road is getting slippery as parties jostle for a piece of the voter’s verdict.
With the unemployment rate hovering at 27.2%, the road to the 2019 elections will be even more slippery as parties will have to convince the voters that they will be capable of reversing the upward spiral once they are installed as government. The youth remain the hardest hit by the ever spiking unemployment rate. Industrialization seems to have taken a hard knock and there is virtually no respite on sight as government falters from one plan to the other. The National Development Plan remains a product on an idle mode with no sign of consistent implementation. This provides a concrete platform for all parties to canvass their plans. Parties will have to be realistic about the future of the country especially the re-invigoration of the economy.
Over five hundred (500) political parties have registered with the independent Electoral Commission (I.E.C) to contest the 2019 elections and the voter is spoilt for choice. The immediate question that arises is: Why such a high number? A possible answer may be that our democratic order is maturing. On the other hand it can be a sign of voter apathy. In the 2014 elections, of the over 25 million registered voters over 6 million stayed away and this should be a concern for our democracy. The IEC should work tirelessly to ensure that voter education is intensified especially in the rural areas. Government should provide adequate funding to the commission so that it can do its work efficiently. This will ameliorate the setback in which the 2014 elections produced above 250 000 spoilt votes. Political parties should do their bidding by mobilizing and educating their support, encourage them to register and to go and vote.
It is indeed correct that South Africa is alive with possibilities. The complacency is finally over and the governing party will have to stretch its muscles far and wide in order to contain its dwindling support base. The smaller parties will have to work overtime if they entertain any hope of getting a reasonable piece of the cake. The political landscape is getting more elastic and tough. The voter once again has an opportunity to exercise the right to install a sixth parliament and every party will compete for endorsement from this critical component of our democratic order. Power is for the people by the people.
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Politics & Governance