COMMENT

The election is over, let reconstruction and cohesion commence

Zohra Dawood writes a herculean task lies ahead for not just the ruling party in the 6th Parliament but all political parties

The election is over, let reconstruction and cohesion commence

9 May 2019

Election day has come and gone, and we are still standing. While the snaking queues and goodwill of previous years was not visible yesterday, early estimates indicate that of the 26.8 million people who were registered to vote, at least 65% turned up at polling stations.

In the absence of exit polls in South Africa, all eyes are on the IEC’s dashboards at its National Results Operation Centre in Pretoria. Here, journalists, party officials and electoral staff will be watching, collating, verifying and reporting on results streaming in from the 22 925 voting districts across the country.  

Early trends predictably put the ANC in the lead, followed by the DA and EFF. Patricia de Lille’s GOOD Party is showing decent support for a new party, while other recent entrants in the electoral race seem to have fallen by the wayside. BLF have gathered a small handful of votes, with 30% of votes having been tallied to date. 

The next few hours will bring joy and despair, and for some parties, a loss of their R200 000 registration fee. The key question for the parties likely to be voted into Parliament is that of what responsibility do they bear in reconstructing the shattered body politic of the country, and what will they do to reconstitute the frayed social contract. 

Slander and sloganeering are the name of the game in most elections the world over and this was patently evident in South Africa in the lead-up to the elections. It is going to require an abundance of maturity and commitment to put country first when final results are announced on Saturday 11 May.  

Putting country first is going to require the new government to take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, State capture, and above all, prize the conditions that will lead to economic growth, which will have a concomitant effect on every sector and facet of life. 

An issue of great concern and one requiring as much effort as the threats to our democracy outlined above, is that of mending the social contract in South Africa. In a best-case scenario, 25 years of democracy would have ensured great dividends in terms of wealth creation, quality of education, public healthcare, responsive government and governance, all of which would have ensured a collective future for all the country’s citizens. Alas, the country is teetering on the edge. Race relations are frayed, mistrust and cynicism are increasing and, as was evident from election slogans, the foundations of our constitutional democracy are being questioned. 

A herculean task lies ahead for not just the ruling party in the 6thParliament but all political parties, to act with maturity to reconstruct the foundations of the country that have been damaged. While election manifestos varied in assertions and promises, few of these will manifest and it is now incumbent on all parties, including the governing party, to work collectively to formulate a game-plan for tackling the most serious of issues confronting the country. Five years is a long time to begin the process of remedial action. 

The notion of developing a social contract is not new to South Africa, think only of the constitutional negotiations in the early 1990s and the culmination of this process in our final Constitution, where unity, non-racialism, and social and economic development were at the core of what bound us together. While the contract has withered, there remains much left to renew and repair. This is the key message for the new government that will sit in the 6thParliament. The urgency of the task cannot be over-stated.                   

By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director, CFCR, 9 May 2019