Friday, April 24, 2009

ANC wins 66% - why?

Latest results (2004 figures in brackets)

African National Congress: 66.15% (69.69%)
Democratic Alliance: 16.32% (12.37%)
Congress of the People: 7.46% (n/a - ANC split)
Inkatha Freedom Party: 4.59% (6.97%)
Independent Democrats: 0.92% (1.70%)
United Democratic Movement: 0.86% (2.28%)
Vryheidsfront Plus: 0.85% (0.89%)
African Christian Democratic Party: 0.79% (1.60%)
United Christian Democratic Party: 0.39% (0.75%)
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania: 0.28% (0.73%)
Azanian People’s Organisation: 0.22% (0.25%)
Minority Front: 0.22% (0.35%)
African People’s Convention: 0.21% (n/a - PAC split)

The ANC’s failure to deliver

For a party that has delivered so little over the past 17 years it seems astonishing that the ANC should have taken 66% of the vote in the recent South African election and may retain the two-thirds majority it needs to single-handedly alter the constitution. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, have grown slightly to take 16% while the ANC breakaway (set up by supporters of former leader Thabo Mbeki) won a relatively unimpressive 7-8%. Most of the smaller parties have been hit quite badly and the former Black liberation movements, the Pan African Congress of Azania and the Azanian People’s Organisation (two of the only parties which represent a left alternative to the ANC), could lose the 4 seats they currently hold in the South African parliament.

Why is it that the ANC remains so popular when the average South African dies at the age of 49 and when the country’s infant mortality rate stands at a shockingly high 44 in every 1,000 births. South Africa is not a poor country - in GDP per capita terms it’s equivalent to Costa Rica (life expectancy: 78, infant mortality: 9) and Serbia (life expectancy: 74, infant mortality: 7). We can’t of course forget the role of apartheid in all this and South Africa has been left with a terrible legacy of racial segregation and impoverishment of its Black population. What is so shocking is the fact that over the last 17 years there has been no significant improvement in the lives of ordinary people. In fact in some ways things seem to be getting worse - in 1994 for example the average life expectancy was 60.

At the root of the misery faced by ordinary South Africans is of course the ANC’s refusal to take any real steps to redistribute the country’s land and wealth (with a Gini coefficient of 0.58 it’s currently among the world’s ten most unequal countries) and their outrageous mismanagement of the HIV/Aids crisis (denial being the only appropriate word with which to describe the approach of former President Thabo Mbeki). Some articles by John Pilger which I would really recommend can be found here:

Among other things he discusses the compromises which the ANC leadership made with the white elite, which made their ultimate rise to power far more palatable to the old apartheid state, and their utter collusion with big business to betray the goals of the Freedom Charter which back in 1955 had declared that South Africa belonged to “all who live in it” and pledged to share out the land, transfer industry and resources to the people and provide housing and medical services to all.

For the ANC to get another huge majority of this size is, I think, extremely unhealthy for South Africa and will do nothing to promote a more open and democratic culture. Neither will it reduce the ruling party’s complacency or force them to take any more account of the needs of ordinary people, not least the impoverished majority as the enter into the financial crisis with an unemployment rate of 40%, an Aids crisis which shows no sign of going away and with very little chance of ever entering the new ‘Black middle-class’ which the ANC seems so keen to promote.

Jacob Zuma: a tragedy for South Africa?

Here’s a few of the statements made by South Africa’s new President (and ANC leader) Jacob Zuma:

“God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city when we are ruling the country.”

Same-sex marriage is "a disgrace to the nation and to God": "When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out."

“In Zulu culture, you cannot leave a woman if she is ready... To deny her sex, that would have been tantamount to rape” (said during rape trial against him).

Taking a shower after sex "cuts the risk of contracting HIV".

Jacob Zuma enjoys immense support across South Africa and has the strong backing of the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. He’s also a highly controversial figure who has faced (but has never been found guilty of) charges of rape and corruption. In the rape trial against him he ridiculed the sex life of his accuser, a 31 year old woman now living abroad, while his supporters chanted slogans and burned photos of her outside the court, throwing stones at another woman they mistook to be her. He admitted to having sex with her but ultimately was able to convince the court that it was consensual. According to the prosecution the woman didn’t openly resist his sexual advances as she was in a state of shock at the time but he was acquitted nevertheless. Here’s an article which discusses further the gender dynamics of the case:

There are very real reasons to fear for the future of South Africa and its democracy with a man like Zuma in charge who so often resorts to the worst type of populism and is of such questionable character. That so many South Africans, especially those who are materially disadvantaged, have put their faith in him to such a large degree is perhaps a symptom of the despair which so many feel over the lack of progress since the end of apartheid. But it’s a misplaced faith and one which will ultimately serve noone. What we need most of all is of course a strong left-wing opposition (something which at the moment completely non-existent) but in the absence of that surely anything to check the ANC’s power can only be a good thing.

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