There is enormous anger and dissatisfaction with our governing party. The Zuma years were characterised by state capture, blatant corruption and an obscenely bloated and inefficient executive and civil service. The reputational harm to the party, once headed by the iconic Nelson Mandela, has been profound and lasting.
Even with a shiny new president in the form of Cyril Ramaphosa who promised a corrupt-free “new dawn”, the ANC limped in with a reduced majority of 57.5% in the 2019 national elections — down from its 62.15% majority in 2014.
Since then, our so-called new dawn has been repeatedly deferred by a president who is not in control of the party he leads. Instead the grotesque corruption during the current pandemic and the simultaneous complete collapse in service delivery — particularly at municipal level — is likely to see the ANC’s popularity plummet further.
An effective official opposition could and should be wreaking havoc with the ANC vote in the municipal elections in 2021. The citizenry is hungry for an alternative to the toxic, rank status quo it faces. Abstaining from voting or spoiling the vote is no longer an option.
But the DA — which is the official opposition party in the Eastern Cape — is unambitious. Re-elected DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga revealed at the weekend that the party intended to make a winning bid in only four municipalities in 2021 — Nelson Mandela Bay, Beyers Naudé, Koukamma and Inxuba Yethemba municipalities.
This must surely have sent a bleak message to voters looking for alternatives to the ANC in the remaining 29 local and metropolitan municipalities.
It suggests that voters in dysfunctional municipalities such as Makana and Enoch Mgijima will have to look at parties other than the official opposition if they want political change. A vote for a party that does not wish to govern would surely be a waste.
On the same day that Bhanga announced the DA’s intention to govern in just these four municipalities, national party leader John Henry Steenhuisen lashed out at small splinter parties, suggesting they had taken away votes from the DA and strengthened the hand of the ANC.
But, if the message the DA wishes to send is that the party does not want to win in 90% of the municipalities that they contest, then what alternatives do citizens have?
If the DA ever wants to win votes, it will have to seek to be more than an official opposition.
Nobody wants to vote for a party that always comes second.