Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who will win the Western Cape?

The silly season is upon us. The Western Cape, the most hotly contested province in the country, is in for a roller coaster ride. All indications are that no one party will be the winner. Instead our political future is likely to fall into the hands of a coalition of parties post 22 April.
How we vote will influence what that coalition will be. It could be any of a combination of parties. The Democratic Alliance(DA) and the African National Congress(ANC) could either align with the Independent Democrats(ID), the Congress of the People(COPE) or some of the smaller parties such as the African Christian Democratic Party(ACDP), the United Democratic Movement(UDM) or the African Muslim Party (AMP).

The two front runners in the 2004 election both believe that they will retain or improve their status amongst voters. While the ANC acknowledges that some of its voters were alienated, it has set out to win back that support and believes it is succeeding. It won 45 percent of the vote in the last election. The DA says evidence suggests that it will win at least 40 percent of the vote and will lead its nearest competitor by 10 percent.

The DA offers a number of reasons why it will win at least 10 percent more than its nearest competitor in this province. While the party garnered 27 percent of the vote in the last national elections in 2004, it won 39 percent in the local government elections in 2006. The ANC won the same but “is now split and cannot hope to win that much support in this election.” By-election results at the end of last year, said the DA, suggest support has grown among Coloured African voters in the metro. The third reason that contributes to it winning is that more DA supporters than ANC supporters turned out for both the recent registration weekends. Lastly, the party runs a tracking poll every day and this suggests that it is on track to win over 40 percent of the vote. Despite this, the party cautions against over-confidence. “Predicting the outcome of the elections is a tricky business,” said spokesperson, Ryan Coetzee. “Every vote counts and none should ever be taken for granted.

The ANC appears to be painfully aware of its challenges but is upbeat that it is successfully winning back its core supporters.
“We have gone for deep organisation as well as a high profile presence” said ANC spokesperson, Jessie Duarte. The party is not depending on the media and chooses instead to speak directly to the voters. “We are successfully bringing people back into the ANC who had withdrawn,” she said.
It is confident that it can depend on the black African vote and the coloured African working class and the farm workers in much of the Overberg and outlying areas. It does not consider COPE to be a major factor in the Western Cape or anywhere else.

Most smaller parties expect to improve their performance because the situation is so fluid. Compared to its 80 branches in 2004, the Independent Democrats (ID) now has 212 branches in this province. It expects to improve its past showing of close to eight percent.
“We attend to people’s problems and are finding that they are continuing to join,” said Patricia De Lille. “We are a bridge across all communities,” she said.

The presence of COPE however introduces a major unknown factor. It appears to be reaching out for support amongst all sections of the electorate and as such could potentially impact on the ANC, the DA and the smaller parties. For example, it has targeted both farm workers and farm owners in the Stellenbosch area and claims to be making considerable impact. “We want to find all the talented individuals we can in order to make the Western Cape a shining example,” said COPE’s spokesperson, Mr Sipho Ngwema. “We do not believe we have a monopoloy on good men and women and want to hold hands with as many people as possible who can make a difference to our lives,” he said. While it only opened it provincial office last week and cannot boast of a strong formal infrastructure, it will promote itself at existing public events starting this weekend. While a number of ANC branches have moved over to COPE lock stock and barrel, COPE’s strategy is encouraging its members with large personal networks to reach out to their friends and acquaintances.

Who will succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the people of the Western Cape?
This province has the third largest population in the country. About 4,8 million people reside in this most diverse region of the country. Their political future lies in the hands of 2, 6 million registered voters who potentially could go to the polls in April. This number represents 400,000 more voters than in 2004 with more than half of the new voters being from the 16 to 29 age group.

Nationally, Black Africans represent 38 million people, White Africans, 4.3 million, Coloured Africans 4.2 million and Asian Africans 1.2 million.

In the Western Cape, there are less than a million Black Africans, 2,2 million Coloured Africans, over 700,000 White Africans and 24,000 Asian Africans. Cape Town and surrounds where more than 70 percent of the voting public resides is the oldest town in South Africa. Its population demographics speak of a history of colonial plunder that wiped out large parts of the indigenous Khoi and San communities and injected a slave community drawn from Asia. Successive apartheid administrations actively excluded black Africans from this part of the country.

Since 1994, the black African vote in this province has remained largely stable. It has consistently gone to the ANC. This is the first time that there are expectations that this pattern will shift. For example, in Langa, the oldest township, the ANC is facing fierce competition from COPE. In response, the ANC organised its December 16th event in that area at the end of last year. It brought in its president Jacob Zuma who attracted a large crowd that was however largely from outside Langa.

In Worcester and the Boland areas where it has traditionally been strong, it’s deputy and the country’s president, Kgalema Motlanthe paid personal courtesy visits to key influential supporters last month. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a considerable swing towards COPE in Worcester. Similar evidence suggests a stronger support of the DA in Khayelitsha and Phillipi than in previous elections. The ANC is also taking some strain in the Southern Cape amongst both black African and Coloured African sectors.

The premier candidates for the different parties are expected to be in fierce competition.
Both the DA and the ID are sending their party leaders into the fray underscoring the importance with which they view the elections here.
Helen Zille will be pitted against Patricia De Lille. With the COPE’s Alan Boesak thrown in, voters can expect to be bombarded as well as entertained.
Interestingly, the ANC remains undecided about its premier candidate. Its spokesperson, Ms Duarte, says that the organisation will not run a campaign based on the personality of its premier candidate but on the strength of the ANC as an organisation. This does however point to an admission of the fractiousness of ANC politics in the Western. Will it be the current premier, Lynne Brown or the current head of the elections team, Chris Nissen.
“We are going to take our time to decide who will be our premier candidate,” said Ms Duarte.

They do have some time on their side. Within the present fluid political climate, a week becomes a very long time. Anything can happen. Events can create changed circumstances in a flash. It is both scary and exhilarating that many voters appear to be undecided. Scary because they may withdraw from the political process but exhilarating because they may act in a way that could inject fresh dynamics into local political life.

With the high levels of competition amongst the parties, it is most likely that many voters will go to the polls. In doing so, they will give democracy a huge thumbs up. By all standards, six weeks is a long time in politics. Much will depend on the impression parties make in this time. The difficulty for the voter is that most of them come with the same message. There is in fact very little different in the stated aims of these parties. The difference lies in the levels of trust that people feel and how convinced they are that they can depend on one party to act in their interests rather than another party.
The choices are tough. When we cast our votes, we will have to consider what alliances we will strengthen. Will Helen Zille be able to bring together a coalition of parties opposed to the ANC as she has done in the City Council? Will the ANC be able to make an alliance with COPE , the ID and the AMP and once again run the provincial government? Or will Alan Boesak be the kingmaker?
If all the smaller parties join a coalition with the DA, it will end ANC rule in the Western Cape.

There are considerable unknowns in this election. The most rewarding outcome would be a balance of power between the different parties so that they could seriously consider cooperating in the interests of all the people of the Western Cape.
There are clearly enormously talented individuals in every party. It will be a pity if they pit themselves against one another after the elections. They have the freedom to do so until April 22. Let’s hope they have the wisdom to combine their strengths in all our interests after the passing of the silly season.


* The terms used to describe different communities are terms created by myself because I believe we should find new inclusive terms.

1 comment:

Gullam said...

I greet you in the universal greeting of peace.

Obviously you did not take into account a new party called Al-Jama-ah. This party is targeting the mainstream muslim vote. Even the MJC is unable to sway this constituent to vote for the ANC. The gap is there and Al-Jama-ah take this opportunity.

Here is an excerpt from the party's Manifesto

Aljama’s Vision
To put a Muslim Voice in parliament
Aljama’s Mission
AlJama’s plan is to continue and realise our forefathers efforts to uphold the freedom to practice Islam in public by creating a new statutory organ in government in terms of the Bill of Rights with regards to:
• Muslim Personal Law: marriages, family law, protection of orphans and children
• Facilitation of supplementary religious education: madrassas’, HIV/AIDS and abortion
• Better working conditions and wages for the religious fraternity (Imams), Mu’adhins and caretakers of the mosque.
• Establishment of a pension fund for the religious fraternity (Imams), Mu’adhins and caretakers of the mosque.
• Improved communication between the Muslim society and all peoples