South Africa: Hollow ANC victory - Class Struggle Ahead!

The the South African national elections of 7 May resulted in a clear victory to the African National Congress. However beneath the surface the mood is one of anger and disillusionment with the corrupt right-wing leadership of the party through which the masses overthrew the Apartheid regime.

The final election results show that the ANC won 62.2 percent of the vote against the 22.2 percent of the DA and the 6.4 percent of the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters. The ANC received 249 seats in the national assembly which is down 15 seats from the 264 seats it won in 2009. This is the lowest number of seats for the ANC in 20 years. The DA won 89 seats (up from 67 in 2009) and the EFF 25.

There was a 73 percent turnout, which is down from the 77 percent of the 2009 elections. This figure might seem high, but if you look closer, a different picture emerges. The 73 percent turnout is only registered to voters. Out of the 32 million eligible voters, 25 million were registered and out of these 18.4 million turned out on the day to vote. This is a turnout of about a 56 percent of all eligible voters, which means some 13 million people, for one reason or another, did either not register for the elections or did not vote.

So in fact the ANC received only 34 percent and the DA 12 percent of the votes of eligible voters. In fact, the turnout for the voting age population has fallen sharply over the last 20 years from 85.5 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 2004 and 2009. The ANC received 11.4 million votes nationally (62.2 percent) which is a slight decline from the 11.6 million in received in 2009.

jacob zuma in 2008Jacob ZumaIn the province of Gauteng, which is the economic heartland of the country with nearly 35 percent of economic output, the ANC's national vote fell from 64 percent to 53 percent - a large decline of 11 percent, which leaves it with a thin majority in the province. It lost support in all three of the giant metropolitan municipalities: Johannesburg (- 9.52 percent), Ekurhuleni (-11.11 percent) and Tswane (-10.11 percent). In fact, the ANC lost support in 7 of the 8 metropolitan municipalities nationwide. Conversely, the DA's vote increased by 7.25 percent in Gauteng. According to the party leader, Helen Zille it received 760,000 votes from black South Africans (6 percent) of which 40 percent come from Gauteng.


On the surface the figures show an overwhelming support for the ANC. However the real situation is very different. As voters were queuing up throughout the country, this year's polls was not marked by the jubilant mood of previous elections. Despite it coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the first democratic elections of 1994, the entire election campaigning has actually been very subdued and have not inspired a lot of passion.

A mix of frustration and anger has been evident throughout the campaign.The lack of enthusiasm from the youth especially was very noticeable. Only 33 percent of the so-called "born-free" population (eligible voters born after 1994) have registered to vote. A very large section of the youth has become completely alienated from politics which is seen as a corrupt and dirty game far from their lives.

south-africa-jacob-zuma-anc-crime-grafittiThe media coverage claimed that the voters who voted for the ANC did not care about the scandals that have engulfed the ANC and Zuma prior to the elections. This is nonsense. As we explained in the previous article: the working masses are disgusted by the state of affairs. They have let the ruling party know about their anger through many protests and strikes in the past few years. The problem is that no alternative was presented to them in these elections..

This was evident on election day. A 96 year old man from Thembeligle burst into tears shortly after he voted. Thembeligle, an informal settlement in Johannesburg, was hit by violent protests in 2012 when residents rose up and demanded housing, water electricity and sanitation. The man, Mr Johannes Makaleng, who is described as a "long-time ANC supporter" said he hoped this time his vote would will lead to an improvement in his living conditions and those of his neighbours.

"My dream is to have a house where I can live with my daughters and granddaughters. I have always wanted my own house. It has been 20 years now and I'm still living in a shack." he said.

This shows very concretely that the the masses see in democracy the hope of improved living conditions and that democracy loses its meaning when those improvements are not forthcoming. The extreme volatility of the situation was shown on Friday, the day after the elections, when the military was deployed in the township of Alexandra just outside Johannesburg. 59 people were arrested after unrest erupted against police because of allegations of small scale vote rigging. This shows the very explosive situation that is built into the foundations of South African society.

For the majority of people there is not much to celebrate after 20 years with formal democracy. Poverty, unemployment, lack of basic utilities and racism are still thriving. South Africa leads the world in inequality which is today worse than during Apartheid.`In the mean time the government ministers and the leaders of the ANC are daily exposed in new scandals in which often involve the looting of the state in the most repulsing manners. This is the reason behind the cool reception of the ANC campaign. However, at present there doesn’t seem to be a credible alternative for the masses to turn to.

The Bourgeois Opposition

The fact that the DA grew by one million votes of which more than 700.000 black votes is brought up in the media as a sign that the ANC was losing its traditional base. However that is not the full story. Of course the DA’s gains are more indicative of the ANC’s decline than the foresight of Helen Zille, but these votes mainly votes of the layer of black middle class which has developed since the end of Apartheid.

This was clear in Gauteng where the ANC saw a big drop in votes. Over the past period the ANC has lost much popularity in the region due to the capitalist policies that the government has implemented. E-tolling (electronic road tolls) or instance has been a major issue for the millions of people in the province who travel to work by car or taxi. These policies have hit the working class hard but has also squeezed the rather large middle class population of Gauteng. The DA demagogically appealed to the concerns of Gauteng black middle class with its candidate for Premier, Mmusi Maimane, pledging to "oppose e-tolls, promote small business, improve education, and channel Black Economic Empowerment to help the masses" . On that basis, it seems that a sizable portion of the black middle class has voted for the DA. Of course, the concerns that the DA show for the "masses" are completely dishonest. This is a bourgeois party through and through. But the decline of the ANC in the province is entirely its own fault and should not come as a surprise. The middle class will move to the right under the pressure of the capitalist crisis if it does not see a clear alternative on the left.

In the Western Cape province the DA increased its majority by 8 percent to nearly 60 percent while the ANC got 33 percent. It is the only province that is not governed by the ANC. Although ANC has governed the province previously, it has never done so with an outright majority. The massive class divide and the practice of voting along racial lines was again showed by the voting patterns in the different voting districts. For example in rich white areas of Cape Town like Edgemead and Plumstead the DA received up to 97 percent of the votes. Conversely, in black/African areas like Nomzama and Gugulethu it could only muster 1-6 percent.

The question of the ANC's historical poor performances in the Western Cape is a complicated question and has to be examined on its own. However the DA’s main point of attack was the race issue which it tried to stir up, especially in the coloured community. Like in, in KwaZulu- Natal, it targeted the coloured vote by playing on the fears of Indian voters.

South Africa’s coloured population have many times been dubbed as inherently inclined to vote for the DA, however this is an insufficient and reactionary explanation. The real reasons why many of these vote for the DA are to be found in the nationalist outlook and right-wing policies of the ANC leadership. This has alienated many colored workers and poor. The same can be said about the emerging layer of white poor. However it is a myth that colored people per se vote or right wing organisations. In the neighbouring Northern Cape province, where 70 percent of the province is made up of coloured people, the ANC increased its vote to 64 percent.

Only through class politics, by addressing the concerns of housing, unemployment, etc., can the coloured white workers’ support for the DA be fought. However, the ANC has done the exact opposite, and by its African nationalist outlook it has in fact helped push many into the arms of the DA.


malema-speak to minersJulius Malema speaking to striking minersThe biggest success story of these elections was the Economic Freedom Fighters, the party led by the former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. Although the party is only 8 months old it managed to secure more than one million votes (6 percent) throughout the country. It is now bigger than the DA in the North West and Limpopo provinces.

In the volatile North West province, where workers at the platinum mines in the Rustenburg area has been on strike for four months, the EFF got 13 percent of the votes and will be the official opposition in the province. This is the result of many the support that Malema and his group has consistently given the struggles of the mine workers. The party also received more than 10 percent of the vote in Gauteng.

All in all this was successful result for the newly established group. This stems from the firm support for many local struggles -  especially the strikes in the Rustenburg area and Marikana -  and the demand for the nationalisation of the mining sector which they have boldly put forward. It is clear that these actions has had an echo amongst of especially, especially young people.

However, the fact is that despite the agitating and bold campaign of the EFF and the courageous and fiery passion of its members who have been involved in all major struggles over the past year and in spite of the openly corrupt gang of thieves at the head of the ANC, the EFF did not manage to make a significant dent into the base of the ANC which remained more or less unchanged at about 11 million votes. in the Eastern Cape where import industrial centres are placed, the EFF got less than 4 percent while the ANC generally grew. Instead of voting for the EFF whose programme is far more radical and in tune with the desires of the workers and poor than the programme of the ANC, almost half of South Africans merely opted for the not voting at all.

Of course the EFF could not have come up as the winner of the elections after only existing for 8 months, but it did show weaknesses that must be addressed if it has hopes of becoming a serious force in the South African working class. Up until now the EFF has been very provocative and confrontational in its attitude, not only towards the hated clique around Jacob Zuma, but often even the ranks and supporters of the ANC. This kind of attitude of might seem very "revolutionary" to some of its members, but its in fact ultra-left and it has the effect of cutting it off from the working class. This was never the attitude of Lenin who always explained the ideas and tasks in a patient manner.

The EFF won many of its votes with the radical demand for nationalisations. Of course we support this demand, however it is also clear that the idea of 60 percent state ownership of some sectors of the the economy together with bureaucratic state control will only lead to more problems. In order to solve the problems of the masses the commanding heights of the economy must be nationalised, under workers' control and management and the production and distribution of goods must be rationally planned.

What about the left?

Also standing in the elections was the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) - and affiliate to the Committee for a Workers International. They participated in the elections as "pioneers" in setting up an "independent workers party" with a " genuine socialist programme." The party was very confident of its chances of getting enough votes to gain representation in parliament. It describes itself as such:

"WASP is the only workers' party standing in the election. Despite an increasing silence from the media on WASP and the disappointing decision of the entire left in South Africa not to call for a vote for WASP but rather to either spoil ballots or vote 'against' the ANC, we remain confident that we will win enough votes to secure representation in the National Assembly. This will be a crucial bridgehead in the development of a mass workers' party. in the coming months and years. WASP is playing the role of a pioneer assembling the forces that can achieve this historic task." (Socialist election campaign in full throttle, 24/04/ 2014)

So, WASP was very confident of its chances. This optimism was shared by presidential candidate, the until recently liberal, Moses Mayekiso in a radio interview and spoke of his forthcoming task in the National Assembly:

"We are going to make those walls (of parliament) reverberate with the sounds of socialist demands."

This sound very inspirational. To get one seat in parliament a party needs to get at least 50,000 votes. The question is how did WASP do? Overall, the party received only 8,331 votes (0.05 percent) about 2 thousand votes less than its claimed membership. When it was formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement, it boasted that it was in close contact with the mine workers in the platinum belt. This would lead one to think that it had a real base among the miners. How did it do there? Well, in the whole of the North West province it could only receive 939 votes! In the troubled township of Bekkersdal in Gauteng where there has been mass protests, and where WASP has campaigned, the ANC won. This has astonished WASP deputy secretary - general Liv Shange who said she was "amazed" at the outcome.

"It's amazing how we are at the bottom in those areas and we expected to do well. Elections are tough and are not a playground. but the results so far have been a major disappointment for us", she said.

So, the adventure of building a mass workers party was proved to be just that. In its analysis, WASP blames everything and everyone for its failure - the lack of resources, the ANC, the press, the mine workers’ union AMCU for preventing excess to mine workers, etc. But the most precious criticism comes in relation to the metal workers' union, NUMSA :

"We invited NUMSA to take its place in the leadership of WASP (!?!) , for NUMSA to present its own candidates for WASP's election lists (!) and pointed out that this would in fact compliment the democratic decisions of NUMSA members at the special national congress. Unfortunately the NUMSA leadership did not take up the our offer(!)” (Ibid, our emphasis)

WASP genuinely believes it is on the same organisational level as the giant trade union with 340,000 members and that NUMSA must "take its place" in the leadership of WASP! But why would such a small sect think it is on the same organisational level as NUMSA? This is what happens why a small organisation tries to shout louder than its voice. What these elections clearly shows is that the working class will not just abandon its traditional organisations for a small organisation. Even the EFF could not seriously challenge the ANC.

Class Struggle Ahead

The next five years is sure to see massive upheavals in South Africa. As the social position of the masses deteriorates, the class struggle will intensify.This will also reflect itself within the ANC and its alliance.

Already there are major cracks in the unstable Alliance, which holds within it some of the biggest capitalists in South Africa as well as the millions of workers and poor. The irreconcilable interests of these classes are even more sharpened as the crisis of world capitalism deepens.

Numsa logoAt the moment this struggle is most acutely represented within the main trade union federation COSATU. The right wing faction supported by the ANC leadership and the left wing led by the metal workers union NUMSA have been clashing continuously and the conflict is not cooling down. After the elections, we are sure to see big clashes in the trade union movement which could involve the expulsion of NUMSA from COSATU.

This would in turn open up for the setting up of a new workers party by NUMSA. Such an eventuality looks increasingly possible. As opposed the feeble attempts of the WASP, such a party would immediately get the support of the most class conscious layers of the working class and would become a decisive factor in South African politics. Many of those who voted for the EFF would probably also turn to this formation.

However, this would not eliminate the vital need to orient political work of this organisation towards the ranks of the ANC. The main question is not organisational independence. Whether Numsa is inside or outside the Alliance is not the primary question. The main task is to have political independence and work to win over the ranks of the Alliance to a genuine socialist programme.

Zuma Vows to Continue Swing to Right

In his reaction to the election results, President Zuma said the victory allows the ANC government to implement the business-friendly National Development Plan:

"This mandate gives us the green light to implement the National Development Plan and to promote inclusive economic growth and job creation, Zuma said.

The business press welcomed the outcome of the elections. Bloomberg reported that the ANC would stick to its economic policies after its decisive victory. It quoted a fund manager at Argon Asset Management that saying:

"From a policy perspective it means that they can carry on charting the same course (...) investors would like to see that as well."

The same article also quoted a London based strategist at Societe Generale, Phoenix Kalen, saying:

"The market breathes a small sigh of relief that the ANC managed to hang on to the province of   Gauteng. The risk of coalition governments which would have include the EFF would likely have undermined the ANC's commitment to ongoing reforms as outlined by the National Development Plan." Bloomberg (10/05/2014)

These comments from the mouthpieces of big business clearly show how the bourgeoisie see the leadership of the ANC. The fact that the strategists of Capital could "breath a small sigh of relief " at an ANC victory show that they think the leaders can be relied upon to implement pro-bourgeois policies.

However they forget that what gives the ANC its strength is the millions of workers and poor who see it as their organisation. The present course set out by Zuma is a direct attack against these people and at a certain stage it will result in a massive upheaval against the Zuma government. The corrupt and degenerate leaders of the right wing of the Alliance have become used to doing as they please. But Zuma forgets that it was a revolt within the ANC itself which overthrew his predecessor and placed him at the helm of the organisation.

The period ahead will be characterised by increasing uncertainty and turbulence. Big events wait ahead in South Africa, which is riddled with contradictions. This will lead to movements that will dwarf all previous movements and which will change the country and its political scene forever. South African capitalism is rotten to the core. Only a socialist revolution can solve the main problems of the people. The will for such a revolution is not missing in society, revolution and socialism is an inherent part of South Africas culture. In the end the main problem in South Africa, more than any other country in the world, is the lack of a marxist leadership. Thus the task of revolutionaries is to build the forces of Marxism, beginning with the ones and twos and educate them in the genuine ideas of Marxism - so as to prepare them to intervene in the coming revolution.