Who is your local councillor?
It seems most South African do not know. This was one of the concerns of the local government elections. There was public discontent at the selection of candidates. Protests in the North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State took place in the months leading up to the May 18 election with appalling results. Voters in Ermelo decided to boycott the elections in protest. Conflict arose as independent candidates were deemed unfit to run by the IEC, protestors took this to be a malicious attempt for the larger parties to retain power. There is no confirmation of this however. The more horrifying result was the death of the protestor Andries Tatane in Ficksburg at the hands of the police.
The issue for many South Africans is that the first time they had ever set eyes ward councilors or mayors was on a poster or at a political rally running up to the elections. There are two ways to look at this; the apathy of the South African public needs to change, a keener interest in the country’s politics should be taken. On the other hand, the very same public blames their apathy on the lack of delivery by the government.
So the question begs who or what have people voted for? Representation is a critical issue in the South African political landscape. Racial, cultural and socio-economic representation has played a major role in who has won the elections over the last 17 years. Even though the ruling party has been largely responsible for the municipalities including some successes and disappointments, analysts did not expect to see voters voting according to their happiness or unhappiness with the ruling party. There have been many complaints, the poor want housing, the more affluent want security and better roads. The result: a largely disappointed public. The results of the elections reflect some accuracy in the political analysts’ conclusions. The ANC did win majority with 63.65 % of the overall votes. What is interesting however is that the ruling party has lost a lot of ground in areas that were previously strongholds like the Eastern Cape. However, realistically the ANC’s label as the liberator will for the foreseeable future continue to keep them ahead at the polls. They may not have won with the same margin as 2006 but they still remain ahead.
Now, this may be demonstrative of my inabilities but over the last couple of weeks I had struggled to differentiate between the local elections and the national elections. I hear the same rhetoric from the national elections; parties bashing each other publicly –mainly the ANC and DA- whilst other parties struggle to be heard. It has been suggested that the 2012 national elections is weighing heavily on the minds of the politicians. The ANC alliance is falling apart at the seams, rumors of a campaign to oust Zuma are fast gaining pace. Whilst the ANC continues with its internal struggle, its main opponent; the DA continues to gain ground. Isn’t it interesting that these elections are supposed to be about improving the government’s service delivery track record? But if one looks at the discourse that surrounded these elections, inter-party politics have been more the subject except the issue of the open toilets and those dreaded potholes of course. After having won the elections, the ANC has stated its renewed commitment to service delivery. Additionally, an inquiry has been set up to ascertain the reasons behind their drop in support. Perhaps an inquiry may give detail; their surprise at the decrease in support may be a worrying indication of a government that does not admit where it has gone wrong.
It has also been reported that the DA believe that by 2019 they will be leading the country with a black leader of course. With that being said, the next eight years plan to be even more exhilarating and frustrating than the past 17 years. So, do you know who your local councilor is?
Image by Axel Buhrmann