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The ANC is coming back – and it’s all your fault!

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It was a normal Shabbos dinner in Johannesburg. The challah bread from Fournos tasted of sugar, and the sesame seeds stuck between my teeth.

Predictably, the conversation turned to the subject of politics, how the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, had destroyed the country with greed, corruption, criminality, and incompetence. Stories were told about how cabinet ministers pocketed kickbacks from Eskom diesel supplies; how Iran had captured South Africa’s foreign policy with the help of the Pandor and Dangor families; and how Cyril Ramaphosa, the spineless invertebrate of a president, had betrayed the Jewish community in return for 30 pieces of Iranian silver, probably hidden in a couch on his infamous farm, Phala Phala.

Everyone ate dessert, except for those on a Banting diet.

At the end of the evening, having overstayed their welcome and having drunk one too many whiskeys, the guests left to go home, abandoning their Sally Williams nougat and Ferrero Rocher chocolates to be regifted with a straight face at next week’s Shabbos dinner.

The guests stumbled into their luxury 4x4s and swerved around the potholes on their way home, where they hid behind electric fences while 84 other South Africans were murdered outside that night.

For them, with 82 days until the general elections, democracy is a spectator sport, requiring nothing more from the dispassionate onlookers than to sit on the sidelines and kibbitz.

None of these guests were funding a political party or volunteering their time or standing for election. In spite of their constant whinging, they all seemed resigned to watch South Africa’s inevitable decline into failure. Politics, for them, was discussing emigration options with their therapist or life coach on a Thursday morning.

Here’s the lay of the land as I see it.

The ANC is currently polling at between 38% and 43%. As incompetent as it is as a government, it’s good at both stealing your taxes and running elections. With infrastructure on the ground and enough Iranian cash to bribe voters with food parcels and T-shirts, the ANC will remain the anchor tenant in any new government.

Sadly, John Steenhuisen’s wet dream of a Multi-Party Charter was a stillborn fantasy, with nowhere near enough support to challenge the ANC’s dominance.

In all likelihood, the ANC will lose control of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and will remain in opposition in the Western Cape. Post-election, the ANC will be the party of rural, impoverished, poorly educated, ageing, black voters.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is currently polling at between 18% and 22%. It haemorrhaged almost all of its black supporters when it got rid of Mmusi Maimane and the young charismatic church crowd in favour of retaining its right-wing, white, Afrikaner base. The DA remains the home of almost all white and most Indian and coloured voters. The DA needs to watch its back in the Western Cape as Gayton McKenzie, a sworn enemy of Helen Zille, steals the hearts of coloured voters.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) support swings like the mood of a steroidal bodybuilder depending on the antics of its leader, Julius Malema, and the publicity he can garner. Over the past 13 months, the EFF has polled as low as 6% and as high as 18%, with a midpoint between the two being potentially realistic, as they say, “never split the difference”. The EFF appeals to radical, disillusioned ANC voters, but will now have to compete in a beauty contest with Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party for the same voters.

The Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was resurgent in KwaZulu-Natal until the launch of MK. The party had successfully navigated the leadership vacuum left by the untimely death of its 95-year-old leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, only to be confronted by the rise of the ghost of Nkandla.

The Patriotic Alliance is one of the rising stars of South African politics. Built on the charisma and charm of Gayton McKenzie and his prison partner, Kenny Kunene, McKenzie comes across as a lovable rogue. He’s been enormously successful in enticing coloured voters away from both the DA and ANC.

A number of relatively new parties will also contest the forthcoming elections.

Herman Mashaba’s Action SA is currently polling around the 2.5% to 3% range albeit that Mashaba told me in December that he would win more votes than the DA. Voters have certainly lied to pollsters before.

Mmusi Maimane’s Build One South Africa (BOSA), remains a contender likely to pick up a few percentage points among moderate to liberal ANC voters who don’t want to be associated with the ANC’s toxicity and aspire to have ethical, strong leadership. Maimane remains a strong, charismatic, credible leader whose popularity in likeability polls is beaten only by Ramaphosa and Zuma.

Songezo Zibi’s Rise Mzansi, is yet to feature in any polling results in spite of enormous donations from the Oppenheimer family, for which the party took an enormous beating. Zibi’s support for South Africa’s attack on Israel at the International Court of Justice and his call for war-crime investigations into Israel’s activities has also lost him major Jewish backing.

Realistically, no permutation of results ousts the ANC from power. However, for the first time, the ANC is almost certain to lose its one-party majority. As we sail into the unchartered waters of coalitions, each province may manifest its own unique coalition different from a coalition forged in the fires of Cape Town’s burned out Parliament.

If you ever wondered why they taught you maths and equations at school, you’re about to find out.

If the ANC receives 45% of the vote, there will be enough “rats-and-mice” parties for it to create a coalition without making any major compromises or concessions.

If the ANC receives 42% of the vote, it will need the “rats and mice” plus the IFP to form a coalition. That becomes a little more costly for the ANC, which may have to share some of the spoils of its looting with others.

Should the ANC poll 38%, it faces a big fork in the road. Does it form a coalition with the EFF or the EFF plus “rats and mice”, or does it build a coalition with Jacob Zuma’s new front. If the ANC moves to the radical populists, Cyril Ramaphosa will probably be ousted from power by Paul Mashatile, for whom deal-making with the devil seems like an attractive option already sealed over a bottle of Blue Label at the Saxon Hotel.

The other alternative is for the ANC to form a national unity government with the DA, bringing the whites and blacks together into a murky grey, retaining Cyril the Incompetent as president, but bringing in much-needed skills from the DA, which has turned the Western Cape into Disneyland.

Whatever happens, the next few months are going to be a bumpy ride.

But as The Blow Monkeys once sang to us, “It doesn’t have to be that way”. You could have made a difference. You could have registered, you could have voted, you could have taken out your cheque book and funded a party. You could have changed the trajectory of South Africa. But instead of getting involved, you sat at the Shabbos table eating parev Peppermint Crisp pudding, discussing where to emigrate, and whether IDC Herzliya (private university in Israel) is still an option for your children.

Although not a man of the cloth, President John F Kennedy warned us, “There’s a special place in hell for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”. Because the ANC is coming back, and it’s all your fault.

  • Howard Sackstein is the chairperson of the SA Jewish Report but writes in his personal capacity.
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  1. Pam

    March 16, 2024 at 11:26 am

    Wet dream? Is this really the right forum for such vulgarity? Honestly. You don’t have to publish this comment, Howie, just edit the article please. FFS.

  2. Shaun

    March 20, 2024 at 10:29 am

    Howard, at the top of the list of the ANC’s evils that you mentioned; you omitted the elephant in the room: racism. The party has always been institutionally racist

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