By Imraan Buccus
As election debates heat up, much attention will be focused on KZN. Provincially, the ANC dropped to 54% in the 2019 elections, down 10% from the 64% it received in 2014.
Since then much has changed. The ANC has imploded and there’s despondency all around – from the enclaves of Umhlanga to the Kennedy Road shack settlement. There is deep pessimism and anger with regard to the ANC, in fact it’s common to encounter outright loathing.
It seems clear that in the next election even more former ANC supporters will stay at home while others shift their votes to other parties.
The IFP was on a downward trajectory until 2019 but the electoral graph has swung dramatically in favour of the IFP since then. From over 50% of the provincial vote in 1994 to just over 10% ten years later many had written the IFP off. But with 16% in 2019, the IFP is seen as a sort of political comeback kid.
Moreover much can be drawn from the IFPs performance in the 2021 local elections. Of the 18 municipalities that the ANC lost, 17 were to the IFP or IFP-led coalitions. It’s clear that in KZN the IFP is the major beneficiary of the collapse in support for the ANC as a result of its descent into corruption, violence and an utter lack of vision.
In fact, along with Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA the IFP is one of the few parties that are actually growing and managing to capitalise on the ANC’s decline.
The DA has not been able to do the same but it still has a base among the minorities and had 14% of the vote in KZN in the last election.
Some may say it’s premature; but be that as it may, the political debate in KZN has moved to what the province might look like with the ANC pushed to the periphery in 2024. Many foresee a DA/ IFP coalition taking power.
Both the DA and the IFP see this as a viable way forward, but as with every possible coalition there will be issues to resolve. At the moment the stumbling block is that the DA is concerned that the IFP has not dealt decisively with the corruption in its ranks, which is all too reminiscent of the ANC. But the IFP is well aware that it can’t govern the province without the DA having promised to act against corruption within its ranks.
People across the political spectrum share the view that the ANC is now a clear and present danger to society, and is doing the sort of damage to society that could take decades to repair. For many any alternative to the ANC will be welcome, and that’s certainly a position that is easy to understand.
But we do have to hold to basic standards of emotional rigour no matter the depth of our feeling at the betray by the ANC of everything that the struggle stood for. The potential rise of an IFP/DA coalition to power would be a dramatic turn to the right in our electoral politics.
This raises all sorts of worrying questions, including the real risk of a rise in ethnic and xenophobic politics, as well as the possibility of even more reactionary positions on issues like street traders, shack dwellers and so on. An anti-poor ‘law and order’ politics would be the likely outcome. The IFP is also quite likely to drive a much harder position in support for traditional authority, and even the utterly discredited Ingonyama Trust. It is also likely to push a general social conservatism, including on gender.
If the ANC does indeed lose power in KZN nobody outside its patronage networks will mourn its demise. But a shift to the right would bring its own problems, which returns us to a question I have often raised, which is the abject failure of the left to build a credible electoral project.
The new ‘left’ pact by the PAC, ATM and the former pro-Gupta propaganda outfit BLF is a joke. The PAC has a noble history but collapsed into irrelevance years ago and ATM and BLF were both set up as proxies for the Gupta/Zuma kleptocracy. They are pseudo-left organisations that no one in their right mind would take seriously.
For a country with such a remarkable left tradition, a tradition that mobilised millions behind the banner of the UDF in the 1980s, it’s just extraordinary that it’s the forces of the right – the IFP and DA in KZN, and ActionSA, in Johannesburg, that are best placed to profit from the stinking rot in the ANC.
The failure of our intellectuals, trade unionists, grassroots activists and progressive religious leaders to step into the breach will haunt us for decades to come.
Dr Buccus is editor of Al-Qalam.