My 20-Something Opinion On The Municipal Elections

17 May

It’s the day before municipal elections in South Africa, and as always, race seems to be polarizing factor. With the population being more than 75% black, this means the ANC will win in most areas. The Western Cape however, is not most areas.

In Cape Town, there are far fewer black people and a far greater number of coloured voters, alongside the fairly consistent percentage of white people. By virtue of continuous bad service delivery, corruption and the general hijinks of an ANC government, the DA managed to obtain a majority in the city via a multiparty coalition in the previous municipal elections. Since then, much progress has been made in locally provided public services, and the DA look to stand at least a chance of attaining the bulk of the vote without need for a coalition.

In my opinion the improvements observed under DA leadership is a valid reason to vote DA. Augmenting the decision to vote for the DA is the fact that all healthy democracies have a strong opposition party. The DA is the only South-African party that comes even close to qualifying as a “strong opposition party”. I take far greater issue with individuals – particularly the young ones – who choose to vote for fringe parties, such as the FF+ and ACDP, than those who vote for the ANC. Sure, I did just mention that I associate abominable service delivery, corruption and general hijinks with an ANC government, but at least some sense of loyalty can be associated with ANC voters, and while their leaders might be making decision I deem to be bad, at least they hold a position from which to make these bad decisions.

Fringe parties that struggle to gain more than a percentage or two of the vote in effect, hold no power whatsoever. The leaders of these parties do not have the ability to represent their voters optimally, since they don’t count when it’s the big guys in the ring. While I can still agree to disagree with members of older generations of South-Africans who choose to vote FF+, I do so only on the grounds that they grew up with apartheid propaganda, and I can hardly expect them to understand the model of a perfect democracy (See: Various western countries) if they were indoctrinated to think that apartheid was a democracy. (Strange to think they might agree to disagree with me on the basis that I’m the one being indoctrinated…) Younger voters of my generation have no such excuse to vote for a party that does not have the ability to represent their voters. To me it seems that the only effect of voting for fringe parties, is the hacking away of percentage points from the DA. Thereby making South-Africa a weaker democracy.

In Stellenbosch we have even seen the rise of the Studente Stem Party (SSP). It is made up by a group of students aiming to solve issues which the young people living in Stellenbosch face. They hope to solve a few very real concerns by winning a few council seats. Their mission is as follows:

1. To provide students with adequate representation in municipal affairs
2. Om te veg vir n veiliger kampus
3. To ensure that the parking problem on campus is resolved
4. Deel te wees van die proses wat besluit hoe laat kuierplekke in Stellenbosch toe maak
5. Fight against increasing electricity costs for students
6. Beter verhouding te ontwikkel tussen studente en die groter gemeenskap
7. Prevent the creation of accomodation zones where students are not allowed to live in
8. Om samewerking tussen die universiteit en munisipaliteit te bevorder

     (The list if the mission statement of the SSP; from: http://www.facebook.com/#!/StudenteStemParty?sk=info)

While the founding of the SSP is a welcome respite from the general apathy towards politics by SU students, it’s my opinion that this is not the best possible move. While it is true that despite students making up a significant percentage of Stellenbosch’s inhabitants, they are rarely given the time of day by those who govern Stellenbosch; should the SSP garner any votes at all – it will most likely be from a student body that would otherwise have voted DA. Again I can never find any situation which takes votes away from the DA to be a positive one. While I concede that while I’m writing a blog – which few people is likely to read – about the situation in Stellenbosch, the leadership of the SSP is being proactive about solving problems they identify, yet I have to ask the question: Couldn’t more be done by engaging in conversation about these issues with DA council members, as opposed to creating a party that could only be effective if it caused an exodus of votes for the DA?

This blog is based solely on my young and surely flawed thought process and opinion, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Please note that I have no knowledge of conversation or lack thereof between the DA and the SSP.

Please feel free to comment, any criticism or praise would be appreciated.

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9 Responses to “My 20-Something Opinion On The Municipal Elections”

  1. Danie May 18, 2011 at 7:47 AM #

    Well said I wish more young people could have your viewpoint. Unfortunately most young people have no interest in politics. My youngest daughter who is still at home is going to vote for the first time today but my two other daughters who already left home did not even care to register. Hopefully I can convince them of the importance of being part of the elections (and their future) before the next general election.

  2. John Clarke May 18, 2011 at 11:31 AM #

    Well said mate. People should stop creating parties for everything they want, fringe parties are not the solution. Look at the USA for instance: 2 parties. That is all one really needs. Why should there be 20+ parties? Really boggles the mind

    • Bernd Jendrissek May 21, 2011 at 4:46 AM #

      The USA is not the RSA. Their political system makes it truly pointless to be a fringe party. In contrast, we have a proportional representation system that allows fringe parties to get SOME say.

      A 2-party system is not good – it leaves you having to pick from two nearly-identical poisons. The parties might as well be named “Rock Party” and “Hard Place Party”. Adding even just a third player changes things completely. In a 3-way competition for a common resource, there is no longer a force towards convergence, but instead one towards chaos. This is the sort of chaos that’s good for voters, and bad for complacent politicians.

      But yes, I too find it amusing to look at a meter-long ballot with 33 parties listed!

  3. Chris Lawrence May 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM #

    I agree with a lot of what you say in this post. The size and immovability of the ANC’s electoral majority is the ‘elephant in the room’. The ability to vote the ANC out of office is in my opinion the single most important thing in South African politics, because all real political progress follows from that. Only once it is seen that the ANC can be voted out will SA have a chance of having a working democracy. (I am not anti-ANC per se but I am anti-dictatorship.)

    As you correctly point out the DA is the only party with any chance of ousting the ANC at any level. Therefore it is (in my mind) the duty of every democrat (including ANC-supporting democrats) to vote DA until democracy itself is off the endangered list. The ANC like every other political party must be in the position where they must work for the support they get and be accountable for their failures.

    It must be possible for even the best party in the world to be voted out of office.

    A cliché, but a hugely important cliché in the South African context: All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Thanks.

  4. Scott May 18, 2011 at 12:14 PM #

    I am writing from Australia to give a different perspective. Until recently, the State of New South Wales was led by an ALP (nominally socialist/worker’s party) since 1995 (and the ANC, coincidentally, has been in since 1994). After winning the Sydney Olympics, everything went downhill badly – politicians began to act as though they owned their seats, and that the people were lucky to have them. In the meantime they did nothing but fill their own pockets, secure jobs for their friends, and cause any number of scandals ranging from sexual abuse through to drug use.

    This was only possible because the Liberal (conservative) Opposition was so weak and divided. However, since 2007 the Liberals finally got their act together, and were able to outline positive policies, and hammer the ALP on the endless corruption that occured. The result in the 2011 election was that areas which had been held by Labour for over 100years voted for the Opposition in large numbers – and a 17% swing was recorded across NSW.

    No government in a democracy will stay fresh or focused upon people’s problems without a strong Opposition to bite them when they spend too much, or propose ridiculous ideas. I ask South Africans to keep this in mind as they vote today.

  5. Ruhan Robinson May 18, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

    You were absolutely right, I did like your blog! In Constitutional Law I learned about a number of criticisms against the proportional representation electoral system that we use in South Africa, the chief of which relates to the the proliferation of smaller parties… I mean, in 2009 I looked at the ballot paper and saw a number of parties which I’ve never even heard of! In particular, I saw a party called KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and that party got a total of 837 votes, which is about 49200 votes less than was needed to have a single seat in parliament… Ridiculous! Every single one of their voters threw away their votes! How democratic…. I just feel that if opposition to the ANC should ever make a difference, they might as well throw their weight behind the DA, like the ID did!

    • Bernd Jendrissek May 21, 2011 at 4:56 AM #

      As far as I understand it, votes for “joke parties” don’t just evaporate into the ether, just like votes that aren’t exactly a multiple of 49200 in number, don’t.

      I really, really don’t understand this desire to see an omni-opposition party form. (Look how far COPE made it by making “we’re not the ANC” their sole apparent position.) These fringe-party votes aren’t “wasted” as you seem to suggest. If such a fringe party does manage to get a seat, they are able to enter into a coalition with other parties. And this is good! Having many parties allows more people to have a party that’s closer to their own values than the dominant behemoth (here, the ANC) is.

      Coalesce fringe parties into an amorphous omni-opposition party, and you just might push those fringe party voters towards the ANC. Is this what you want?

      • schroeds May 21, 2011 at 10:10 AM #

        When coalitions are being discussed between the FF+ and the ANC, and the ACDP and the ANC, one really has to question whether that is going to provide the representation that the voters of those parties had in mind. I also feel it is imperative to establish an opposition capable of attaining enough of the vote that the ANC can’t get close to 2/3’s of the vote, with which they can change the constitution of the country. I don’t think a country in which a single party can change the constitution, is a very good democracy.

        I do appreciate your criticism though. 🙂

  6. schroeds May 18, 2011 at 4:29 PM #

    Hi all, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I’m a bit of a newbie, so appreciate any and all feedback immensely.

    @Danie I hope you can get them interested, but I know very few people my age are bothered. Shockingly few SU students actually registered to vote. I got this off another blog, can’t recall which… Gareth Cliff said that those who vote are citizens and those who don’t are subjects. Hopefully more young people will realize that they have the opportunity to influence the world.

    @Chris Couldn’t agree more.

    @Ruhan, Scott and John. Thanks for your input, and adding to my knowledge.

    Hope all the South Africans voted, I did.

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