"Counter-revolution" on the march against ANC racism and destabilisation
One of the most significant aspects of the municipal elections earlier this month was the almost clean sweep the Democratic Alliance (DA) made of the Western Cape. This, after all, is where the African National Congress (ANC) tried to punish naughty voters by launching its campaign to make the province and the city of Cape Town ungovernable after growing numbers of them supported the DA in earlier provincial and municipal elections.
"Operation Reclaim", as the ANC called its efforts to destabilise democratically-elected institutions, did not shrink even from acts of sabotage such as cutting signal cables on Metrorail's central line. But the attempt to "liberate" voters from the DA governments they had elected ended in failure: the ANC's share of the municipal vote in the province dropped to a quarter while that of the DA rose to almost two thirds.
The campaign by the ANC and its communist and trade union allies to make South Africa ungovernable was more successful when the target was a minority government. It was waged with a ruthlessness few commentators were willing to admit. That the ANC should use the same strategy, albeit somewhat watered down, against democratically-elected governments suggests that the organisation has yet to reach political maturity.
The minister of home affairs, Malusi Gigaba, last week said the ANC now faced a struggle "to stave off the counter-revolutionary upsurge" in the country. This supposedly means rescuing the country from "neo-liberalism", "white monopoly capital", and all the other usual suspects and demons. Perhaps it also means that the ANC will wage this "struggle" by seeking to destabilise other parts of the country as it tried to destabilise the Western Cape, and as it also tried to destabilise the DA-held municipality of Midvaal before the recent election.
If accusations by the new (DA) mayor of the Tshwane metropolitan area, Solly Msimanga, are correct, destabilisation efforts have already been launched there in the form of power cuts and land invasions. Will we now see "service-delivery" protests staged with the objective not of securing better services but rather of handicapping their provision? Since provision of services is the single most important function of local government, sabotaging them will hit the DA where the ANC can do most damage. As the Western Cape suggests, however, such a strategy may backfire.
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), describes the DA as a party of "white racists" but a "better devil" than the ANC. He admires Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. He wants to cancel household debt and nationalise land without compensation. His party has done a spot of land invading.
But Mr Malema also says his party will not "delay service delivery because of ideological differences". Since he is a smarter politician than most people in the ANC, Mr Malema may recognise that undermining service provision and destabilising the DA at local level may antagonise voters more concerned with seeing their lives improved than with political theatre and destructive antics.
A second significant aspect of the DA's triumphs in the Western Cape is the role of coloured voters in securing it. At 49%, they constitute the single largest proportion of voters in the province. Perhaps they punished the ANC for practising affirmative action against them.
Relevant here is a finding last month by the Constitutional Court in a case brought by the Solidarity trade union. The application of national racial proportions by the Department of Correctional Services to appointments in a province with a greater coloured population was found to be "unfair discrimination".
The court ordered seven aggrieved coloured employees to be appointed and retroactively remunerated. It is ironical that a union once identified with apartheid now fights for the rights of the coloured minority against the racially discriminatory policies of a liberation movement whose claims to be "non-racial" look more preposterous day by day.
* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the Institute of Race Relations, a think-tank promoting political and economic freedom.