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Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
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By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” June 4, 2024)

The African National Congress (ANC) was humbled in the national elections of May 29, 2024, thus ending its domination of South Africa’s politics, which was won after the celebrated 1994 elections in which Nelson Mandela became president. The ANC’s demise was largely expected as credible charges of arrogance, corruption, incompetence, and neglect of the majority Black population resonated with voters.

The ANC vote tally dropped a dramatic 17 points from 57% of the votes cast in 2019 to just over 40% last week. Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe Party, named after the ANC’s former armed wing, holds huge political symbolism because of its role in fighting for the end of white minority rule was the biggest winner. Zuma’s MK party won an impressive 15% of the votes in its first attempts at the polls.

The election result returned the former president and ANC leader to centre stage in South African politics. Zuma stepped down as South Africa’s president on Feb. 18, 2018. His resignation followed years of scandal and internal dispute. He became the face of what many in South Africa called “state capture”, where he allowed wealthy business owners to wield massive political influence.

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In many respects, the biggest surprise in the South African election was the failure of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, to improve its fortunes after garnering 10% of the votes in 2019. At its 10-anniversary party celebration on July 29, 2023, the EFF packed to capacity the FSB Johannesburg stadium, indicating that it will be a serious force to reckon with. Malema, half-jokingly, told the media that Zuma’s MK stole his party’s votes. In a nod to the possibility of an alliance of sorts with the Zuma forces, Malema said that both MK and EFF were relatives.

It’s difficult to fathom what EFF did incorrectly, that explains its stagnant performance in the elections. Malema and his economic freedom fighters were by far the most principled and consistent defenders of the most deprived and vulnerable section of the South African population. We are confident that the American security agencies and the Israeli zionist did everything to ensure that the EFF did not gain more traction.

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance won just over 21% of the votes. It is a right-wing grouping that emphasises maintaining the status quo, in which the local and foreign white elite continue to control and dominate the country’s wealth, economic resources, and privileges.

I became suspicious of the ANC’s agenda for change after reading Naomi Klein’s 2007 classic Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In the book, Klein spoke of Thabo Mbeki,  Nelson Mandela’s successor, describing himself as a Thatcherite. The former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously declared that “there was no such thing as community”. She believed that people must pull themselves up by the bootstraps. All the while, the conservatives were enriching the British ruling class as she gutted the state-owned companies. Thatcher privatised essential sections of the economy such as the railroads, steel, airways, airports, gas, electricity, telecommunications and water. With such ideas dominant among key leaders of the ANC, it is a small wonder that so little attention has been paid to the poor and vulnerable in South Africa. There is now a Black political bourgeoisie.

With the elections over and all the parties collecting less than the 50% vote count necessary to form the government, South Africa now enters a phase of relative uncertainty. The ANC, with 40% of the votes, needs to seek out a coalition partner or parties to form the next government.

South Africa has a feverish atmosphere as the parties offer proposals and make demands. Zuma’s party is demanding that former president Cyril Ramophosa step aside and not be in the running for president. Julius Malema maintains that while his EFF is prepared to discuss South Africa’s political future, it will have nothing to do with the conservative Democratic Alliance. The Democratic Alliance labelled EFF the biggest threat to South Africa’s democracy. Malema claims that labelling is unforgivable. The EFF is also demanding that Floyd Shivambu, its deputy leader, be made finance minister in any coalition government.

The ANC is proposing to lead a government of national unity. Such an arrangement may be in the nation’s best interest. South Africa, like SVG, has a massive crime problem. As one analyst said, “Everywhere in the country, crime is what people talk about. It deprives South Africans of living a full life. It has sucked the soul out of the country.”

The electricity problems are mounting, and there are frequent blackouts. On top of this are the high unemployment rate, which is listed at 35%, the dismal state of the economy and the dire conditions faced by the vast majority of the African population. They remain mired in poverty after 30 years of the official end of the racist apartheid regime and South Africa’s experiment with democracy.

The period between now and the next elections is fraught with dangers for South Africa. Would the ANC follow other liberation movements across Africa, such as the South West Africa People’s Organisation of Namibia, The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola and the National Front for the Liberation of Mozambique that disregard their promise, disappoint and whither away into political insignificance as people-centred movements for real change?

Will factional violence overtake the country? Zuma has already made what some view as ominous remarks. “They must not try us,” Zuma said, referring to the election commission’s refusal to halt the announcement of election results until a recount of ballots in some areas.  Will leaders across the political spectrum put aside their many differences and commit to snuff out corruption and address the pressing problems confronting the nation? Will impoverished South Africans become radicalised and demand a more significant share of their country’s enormous riches? 

Nothing short of a radical transformation of the South African economy would facilitate the solution to many of the issues plaguing South Africa and the rest of the continent. In the meantime, we wait to see how things unfold in South Africa.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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