“Simply put – EFF managed to swim with the sharks without being eaten alive. How they made it is a story that is subject to academic political studies. They succeeded against all odds because they remained on message and remained consistent with it throughout the campaigning process. They reduced themselves to one key aspect: determined, street-level fighters for the poor and unemployed.” – Chris Kanyane
This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.
Despite 16.1 million people (30% of the population), mostly black, receiving social grants, Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, encouraged black people to reproduce so that black ideas “can dominate”. He has advocated the Zimbabwe-style seizure of farms in South Africa and the nationalisation of mines. He has been convicted of hate speech and sang the ‘Shoot the Boer (farmer)’ song after it was banned. He has threatened journalists. He has unresolved charges for fraud, money laundering and R16 million in tax evasion. That he isn’t already imprisoned dumfounds some of his critics and has them wondering if he’s been protected and if he’s a tool being wielded by a third force with a bone to pick with the ANC.
Whether truth is that Malema is villain or hero, his appeal to populism made a big mark on the 2014 election. Facebook supporters are fervent, describing him (amongst other things) as the “Son of the People”, “Jesus is here” and “The Moses Of Our Time”. He, ‘simply’, calls himself Commander-in-Chief.
His final election rally, organised with short notice, pulled 30 000 entranced supporters. That multiplied nationwide into a debut gaining 6.36% of the vote which equates to approximately 1.17 million people. For a party only a year old, it’s impressive.
Whether populism will grow stronger or fail before the next election is something no one can answer but there’s no lack of support right now. What would their reaction be if he is sent to jail? Would they fall apart or protest? Or, if he is guilty, what if the government decided not to successfully prosecute for the sake of caution?
So the DA gained 5.47% more of the vote than in 2009. And the EFF got 6.36%. Combined, that’s 11.8%, considerably more than 3.8% the ANC lost. Although the ANC would’ve benefited most from the collapse of COPE, the victory cries by both opposition parties (in reference to the ANC) falls hollow when most of their gain had to have been taken from elsewhere.
The small parties were smashed. Maybe some of them deserved to be extinguished but credit should not be given to the all-encompassing notion, “That’s democracy in action”. Democracy is not where everyone is equal but rather where everyone is given equal opportunity. Equal opportunity for political parties can never arise so long as the bigger parties control the media and the majority of funding.
For all the bickering about secrecy bills, no secret is as destructive as those involving donations because human nature, for the most part, is not to give without expecting something in return. So long as the DA and the ANC refuse to disclose their sponsors, it will only intensify the common belief that they work for big business and foreign governments who see Africa as a battleground for resources. Smaller parties are of minimal use to those outside sources and thus cannot compete. If they don’t compete then there are less check and balances to ensure the bigger parties toe the moral line.
It cannot be ignored that some, like COPE, were their own devils, self-destructive as their leaders sought more of the pie from each other. This was self-service, not public service. Then again, cynically, that seems to be the main characteristic of South African politics. COPE just wasn’t good enough at it.
As much as there are South Africans wanting a more visible democracy made by a stronger opposition diminishing the ANC, this result is not it.
Maybe the biggest enemy was the public themselves. Miseducated and uneducated voting is the norm. Worryingly, apathy continues to rise. Two-thirds of the ‘Born Frees’, those who entered our world after the fall of apartheid, didn’t bother to register. Of the overall registered population, 17% percent didn’t turn up. That’s an attendance drop from 89.28% in 1999 to 73.38% now.
In the run-up to this year’s elections, Ronnie Kasrils (former intelligence minister and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (former deputy health minister) encouraged the public to spoil their votes. It is impossible to determine the number of the 234 000 spoilt ballots they were responsible for.
A commonality between the ANC, EFF and the DA is that the media (entirely misnamed as The Fourth Estate) gave them power. The ANC seems to have the SABC and The New Age newspaper on their side. Malema’s scandal after scandal routine turned news agencies into a giant tabloid that made him into an icon. In the Western Cape, the DA was given a free ride with journalists supporting Helen Zille rather than acting as impartial investigators. It’s also called “sunshine journalism” but what it is is bias. If there were justice in South Africa, many media would be jailed for failing democracy and us.
There seems to have been little justice for the public, as a whole, in this election. Maybe it’s the system that is flawed. After all, democracy is about forming policy based on the majority’s will but then what of minority rights which, theoretically, could be 49%.
Jadedly, one could say that it’s not about democracy. It’s all about power, an engine run on the fuel of promises and lies that offer hope to people desperate for it. All South Africans want life to be better.
Even if the donkey never catches the carrot, it will keep on chasing it.
PS: Future blogs will discuss what we can do!