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ANC in trouble, but not to be underestimated

On the eve of the most heavily contested local government election in the history of South Africa, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is a predictable mass of contradictions. But who is honestly surprised by this? And does it really matter?



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Underestimate the ANC at your own peril. Photo: BBC World Service/ Flickr

Underestimate the ANC at your own peril. Photo: BBC World Service/ Flickr

This past week, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was on the stump offering his own brand of campaigning, and Zuma himself was using the predictable race card in the townships of the Cape. The dangerous rhetoric, of course, fuels hate and destructive discourse – but Zuma has never really been one to care about sowing division. In fact, some may say ‘divide and conquer’ is his governance strategy.

So, while the polls make for interesting reading, voting day will bring the real reckoning. If indeed there are big surprises and the DA manages to pull off electoral victories in Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and Johannesburg in particular, two questions spring to mind. How will the ANC deal with such defeats? Can the centre hold; and would it accept the democratic outcome?

Read: Election violence: should South Africa be worried?

It is no coincidence that the ANC has used the ‘rule until Jesus comes’ rhetoric this past week. In other parts of the country, coalitions are likely to be more prevalent. Are the DA, ANC and indeed the EFF prepared for this – and if not, what might the repercussions be for stability across municipalities where there is no clear majority? We live in days of intolerance, and working across party lines takes a kind of generosity and maturity that is currently lacking in our politics.

Parties, especially the ANC and the DA, need to be thinking through coalition options where those might well arise. Elections 2016 certainly seems like open season.


Judith February, Consultant, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Pretoria

This article was originally published by ISS Africa, @issafrica

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