Election results a blow against racial mobilisation
The results of the nationwide municipal elections on 3rd August are a repudiation of all those seeking to polarise South Africa along racial lines. In the first place, the great majority of whites voted for a party with a black leader. This is a neat answer to all those academics and journalists who in the past couple of years have been cooking up a witch's brew they call "whiteness" that enables them to depict all white people as having racism baked into their DNA.
Secondly, the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area, whose population is only 15% white, is likely to find itself with a white mayor put there by blacks once coalition talks have been concluded between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and smaller parties. Not only is Athol Trollip, the DA's candidate for mayor, white, he is also a farmer whom the African National Congress (ANC) accused of abusing his workers.
In the view of President Jacob Zuma the mere fact that Mr Trollip is a white farmer makes him a thief. The accusation that whites stole South Africa has been most vociferously made by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), but Mr Zuma began to echo it at the beginning of this year when he said "vast tracts of land [had been] stolen from the indigenous people of South Africa'.
Both the ANC and the EFF seem to have miscalculated about land. The ANC's promises to "radically accelerate" land reform did not stem its losses in either urban or rural areas. The EFF did well in some constituencies, but its overall support went up from 6.3% in the national election in 2014 to only 8.2% in the municipal poll. The implication is that its promises to confiscate white land did not resonate as much with black voters as it no doubt expected.
This is not surprising. An opinion poll conducted for the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) last year showed that "more land reform" was just about the least of South Africans' concerns. They regarded more jobs and better education as very much higher priorities. As for stealing, the municipal results show that a growing number of voters think thieves are not to be found among white farmers so much as among top politicians, town councillors, and municipal officials.