Democracy is the most desirable form of government — and especially appealing to those deprived of it — but it’s by no means infallible.
After all, collective will is not the same as collective intelligence. Look at Brexit.
White South Africans seem to be particularly prone to dangerous manifestations of political stupidity. Obviously, apartheid immediately springs to mind — not only did whites vote for it in massive numbers but they persisted with their insanity for almost 50 years.
Thus it should come as no surprise that the African National Congress hopes on May 8 to draw its biggest ever share of the white vote. Yup, the party that implemented affirmative action, racial quotas, and property expropriation, and whose leader recently rebuked whites for sparking black anger with their "lackadaisical" response to these innovations, is predicting a white vote bonanza.
According to research conducted for the ANC, reports the Sunday Times, it's the white vote that could make all the difference in the economic powerhouse of Gauteng, where the opposition had been hoping to wrest control. In the 2014 provincial election, ANC support dropped from 64% to 54%. Since then, in 2016, the ANC has lost control of the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros to opposition coalitions.
An Institute of Race Relations survey puts the ANC Gauteng vote now at 42%. That’s tantalisingly close for the Democratic Alliance, with 31% in 2014, and the Economic Freedom Fighters, with 10%. The IRR survey puts Gauteng DA support at 32% and that of the EFF way up at 18%, although one wonders whether the DA would again partner with the EFF, given its unhappy experiences of municipal coalitions with that erratic and toxic party.
Opposition coalitions may be irrelevant. Gauteng Premier David Makhura says that with white voter support now running at 8% in the province, the highest ever for the ANC, the party is hoping to keep its chin above 50%. In addition, the party expects to draw a substantial number of the 23% of white voters who, in its survey, said that they were considering voting for the ANC.
Behind this unexpected development is what the ANC gleefully calls the “Cyril factor” — the popularity of President Cyril Ramaphosa among the white community. “We’ve never had such high support among white voters, even during the Mandela years,” Makhura told the Sunday Times.
Makhura claimed that the ANC’s growing popularity among whites had forced DA leader Mmusi Maimane to have to become “preoccupied with organising whites”, a voter demographic that traditionally has been DA.
The DA will scoff that these predictions are nothing more than pre-election hype by the ANC. Contrary to the trends identified in the ANC research, that of the IRR found that nationally, only 1.1% of ANC support would come from whites, 2.2% from Coloureds, and 0.5% from Indians.
Nevertheless, the DA has reason to be worried.
There is, indeed, a lot of social media buzz and braai-fire talk among whities about how important it is to bolster Ramaphosa’s position in the ANC against the black nationalists in former president Jacob Zuma’s camp. In this scenario, whites should vote ANC to ensure that the party performs sufficiently well in the election that Ramaphosa immune from being ousted by his comrades.
Let’s ignore for a moment the embarrassing hubris of less than 10% of the population fantasising about mounting its white charger to gallop into the fray to save the head of Good King Cyril. But just the reasoning behind voting for the ANC, not because you like its policies but because you like its leader, is so logically and tactically flawed that one hardly knows where to start.
For one, the ideological direction taken by the ANC is determined not by one man, but by a collective. It’s a collective dominated by the left — the unions and the SA Communist Party — and by a grassroots membership which, taking its cue from the populist appeal of the EFF, is itself moving steadily further left.
Ramaphosa could no more reverse ANC policy decisions on Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC) or the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank than he can levitate. These depend on the party, as will any move against Ramaphosa as leader. If whites want to “save” Ramaphosa, they had best join their nearest ANC branch.
Ramaphosa is undoubtedly an attractive presidential package, especially when compared to what went before. He is personable and reassuringly intelligent, and with his commissions of judicial inquiry, is slowly moving against senior party figures on corruption.
But Ramaphosa’s rhetoric around EWC has been consistently hardline. The only public concession to economic reality has been his glib assurance that it would be carried out efficiently, with no tolerance for Zimbabwean-style land grabs.
Contrary to flighty whitey notions that they can be the brake-shoe on the ANC wagon, the most likely outcome is the opposite of what they wish. If the ANC puts before the electorate — as it has — a slate of really bad policies and is then rewarded with a resounding electoral victory, this will increase, not decrease, the likelihood of those poor policies being implemented.
There’s no need to overthink. Political parties, in terms of policy adaptations, are most responsive not to triumphs at the polls but to defeats.
If you want to nudge the ANC to the left, vote EFF. If you want to nudge it to the right, vote DA or — and that’s the beauty of proportional representation, where no vote is wasted — vote for any party with the laissez-faire policies that chime with your beliefs.
And if the present government is the Goldilocks solution — just right for you — vote ANC.
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