Political Promise

Zuma and the ANC: Disharmony in the Rainbow Nation

In Zachary Barker on June 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Last year saw the death of Eugene Terra’Blanche, the founder of the White Supremacist AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement in English translation).  However if the recent local elections in South Africa are anything to go by, racial divisions in the country are far from dead and buried, writes Zachary Barker.  

Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, polling data still reveals undeniable tendencies for South Africans to vote along racial lines.  The African National Congress (ANC) still holds the vast majority of the support of the black electorate, while the main opposition party the Democratic Alliance holds the same for the white electorate.  On the campaign trail of the recent local elections the ANC did not shy away from attempting to use this issue for shameless electoral gain.  

The leader of the DA (Democratic Alliance) Helen Zille was insinuated (at times openly accused) of being in charge of a white supremacist party, that is actively anti-black.  This is an astonishing accusation given Helen Zille’s past.  As a member of the anti-apartheid women’s group Black Sash, she was forced to go into hiding from the apartheid government along with her two year old son.  Despite the openly dirty campaigning, the DA increased it’s share of the vote from 16% (five years ago) to 24% of votes counted.   To accompany this result they have also retained control of South Africa’s second city Cape Town.

Amid the DA’s success in Cape Town an often overlooked chapter of South Africa’s history in racial tension is hidden.  This chapter is that of the members of the population classified as mixed-race minority that is smaller than the white minority also have a history of discrimination.  Social indicators highlight disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment within this racial group.  Cape Flats, is home to much of Cape Town’s mixed-race population is ridden by pervasive gang violence and persistent poverty.  While still dominated by support from the white population, the DA is starting to steadily increase it’s support among mixed-race voters.  Members of the mixed-race minority remember places such as Cape Flats being in a similar condition before the end of apartheid.  It is conceivable that many of them consider a vote for the ANC as a vote for continuity in the same old problems that Cape Flats represents.

Recent years have seen the rise in popularity of the (DA), the next largest political party in South Africa.  Its rise has been largely attributed to increasing public dissatisfaction with public services as well as the spread of corruption within those services.   The scale of police corruption was revealed in July 2010 by the conviction of Jackie Selebi the former National Police Commissioner, on charges of corruption by taking bribes from a drug smuggler.  

One wonders about how much faith South Africans place in President Jacob Zuma to lead a crusade against graft from the top of the government hierarchy.  His recent past hardly paints him in crusader stripes.  He was once denied the premiership because of corruption allegations, and only avoided them before the start of this term on a court technicality.  It is conceivable that with his country’s long term problems remaining constant at best with a re-energised opposition, Jacob Zuma has saw fit to allow the ANC to wear it’s liberation movement colours again.  However there if history has taught us anything it is that electorates in any country are only prepared to respect the past only so far.  Sooner or later they decide for themselves whether they were happier then, or now.  That lesson may come back to haunt Zuma before too long.

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