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Now is the time.  November 1st, 2021 can be the day that changes the course of South Africa’s history.  Or, given historical apathy and whining, it will be just another wasted election.  The party that falsely claims the mantel of liberation, claiming 100,000 Umkhonto we Size “combat” veterans and promising a chicken in every pot has betrayed the liberation struggle and all law abiding South Africans with its endless and shockingly shameless corruption at all levels, disdain for twenty percent of citizens, constant race hustling, pervasive incompetence and vast patronage network that have created a class of Black nouveau riche while leaving most Black South Africans less safe, less educated and mired in poverty. 

The ANC is not the party of liberation.  It is the party of self-enrichment.  Following the path of so many other liberation parties, the ANC has entrenched itself for the benefit of a few hundred thousand loyal “cadres,” at the expense of over 59 million people.  It is not too late to prevent the total collapse that is coming to South Africa: vote.  Twenty-six million South Africans have registered to vote in the municipal elections this year after the ruling party and the “Independent” Electoral Commission pulled out all the stops to postpone an election that should (all things being equal) see the ANC trounced by angry voters.  But South Africa is an odd bird, to say the least.  Despite all the failures, the theft of COVID funds, disappearing piles of money from international lenders (IMF, AfDB, BRICS bank), cash-in-transit heists, horrific gender based violence, pervasive and brutal rape, farm murders, an inability to do the basics like keep the lights on, provide rations to deployed troops, ammunition for police, prosecution of criminals, riots, looting in KZN and Gauteng, as well as by ANC cadre, not paying its own party workers, and so on and so forth, the ANC can still triumph in this election.   

Since lockdown first eased in June of 2020, I have urged opposition parties (save the EFF) to get into townships, mining hostels, rural areas, leafy suburbs, in the cities to bring voters to your standard.  Most squandered the 14 ensuing months as the ANC repeatedly gifted them campaign fodder.  Locking people in their homes, security forces murdering Collins Khosa and a dozen other Black South Africans, criminalizing the lawful conduct of 230,000 law abiding citizens, bans on the sale of cooked chicken, open toed shoes, shutting down e-Commerce, closing retail outlets, fueling the growth of criminal syndicates with a nonsensical tobacco ban, theft of PPE money, destroying tens of thousands of businesses, crushing the hospitality and tourism sectors, race hustling, outright racism, expropriation, dividing South Africans at every turn while their red beret mignons attack Clicks and urge supporters to burn farmland.  The ANC has given opposition parties an ample supply of campaign material with which to bury them at the polls.

Sadly, all these ANC failures may not matter much.  Far too many South Africans cannot let go of past disappointments or grievances to vote with their head, not their heart.  The path back from the abyss the ANC has brought us to begins on November 1st, if only South Africans choose that path.  How do you come back?  First, the 26 million plus registered voters have only completed half their task.  Now you must go vote.  Historically 31 to 38 percent of eligible voters will show up at the polls for a municipal election.  If this holds true, less than half the registered voters will bother to vote.

Second, use your head, not your heart or anger.  If you view the ANC as the party responsible for the liberation of South Africa and feel an obligation to the party, consider for a moment its constant betrayal of the nation over the past 15 years.  The ANC does not care about you.  If you are an angry former DA supporter who cannot forgive them for the abysmal 2019 campaign, get over it.  If you support the EFF and honestly think the “Commander in Chief” cares about you more than his Rolex, mansions, attention, and Range Rovers, you are deluding yourself.  The key to this election will be for opposition parties to win outright majorities in municipalities, then rewarding voters with proper governance and service delivery.  Talk of coalitions is not the answer.  I point you to Nelson Mandela Bay and the fractious coalition Athol Trollip was forced to nurture.  An opposition party needs an outright majority.  To govern effectively they cannot be dependent on “king makers” with one of two council seats.

Finally, regardless how you feel about any party that is not the ANC, vote for the opposition party that has a legitimate chance to win a majority.  In most major metros this means the DA and possibly the IFP (Durban) or ActionSA (Johannesburg).  But the IFP and certainly Herman Mashaba’s party will likely only spilt the vote, preventing another party from achieving a majority.  In smaller areas other parties may have the upper hand.  If so, vote for them to win the majority.

Should opposition parties trounce the ANC in this election, this will not magically solve South Africa’s woes.  The ANC retains control over the national government and all but one province.  It doles out money from above to metros, owns the national police, infrastructure, taxation and so many other resources which it can withhold or refuse to opposition-controlled metros.  However, if unseated around the country, Luthuli House runs the risk of alienating its own dwindling voter base if it plays hardball with opposition-controlled metros between 2022-2024.

The choice is yours South Africa: vote or do not vote.  Send the ANC deservedly packing or split the vote across metros, preventing any opposition party from achieving an outright majority.  Should you not vote or split the vote, nothing will change for the better.  It’s up to you.  Ke nako!

Chris Wyatt

Chris Wyatt

Colonel (Ret) Chris Wyatt, the Principal & CEO of the Indaba Africa Group, is a retired U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa and past Director of African Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was previously the Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU). He has lived across the continent (eight countries) and working in over 30 African countries.

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