Which way will the 2009 elections go?

Harald Pakendorf, seasoned political analyst and journalist, predicts that the ANC will lose its two-thirds majority in the coming election. Addressing some 500 delegates at the annual VinPro information day, Pakendorf said the solid supporter base of the ANC has been eroded significantly since 1994.

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Political parties have a solid support base which will vote for them, no matter what their policies. This support base will even vote for a Julius Malema if he promises to turn South Africa into a capitalist state, or if he promises to turn the country into a communist state. We saw the same thing under the nationalist government when you woke up to find you had voted for PW Botha – again!

However, between 1994 and 2006, the solid support base of the ANC has declined from 60% to 44%. The number of undecided voters has increased from 14% to 42%. The ANC will manage to claw back some support, but clearly a political gap has opened – a gap that’ll have a profound effect on the ANC. The most significant outcome of a less-than-two-thirds majority is that the ANC will be unable to change the constitution in future.

Not that they’ve changed it so far. They’ve been good about that, but the fact that they won’t be able to do so in future to prevent their leaders from being prosecuted, for example, is significant. The coalition politics now seen in the Western Cape will shape the future political landscape of South Africa if parties fail to gain outright majorities. Continuous coalition politics lies in our future and is good for the country because it concentrates the minds of politicians. Suddenly they all answer telephone calls!

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They sit up because they realise they can’t do as they please. In coalition politics, everyone watches everyone else, so the politicians are less dishonest but less effective, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Italy had 52 governments in 50 years and its economy is still growing!

The ANC won’t win in the Western Cape and runs the risk of losing the Northern Cape. Gauteng, with the third-largest economy on the African continent, may also see some fireworks. I wouldn’t sleep soundly if I were the ANC in Gauteng. The party might just find it has to phone the Mulder brothers after the election to form a coalition!

Cope will do well in the Eastern Cape. As far as the DA is concerned, there’s a new spirit under Helen Zille’s leadership, a new point of departure. The party has a real chance of advancing even further and the Western Cape is well within its grasp. I can’t predict with certainty who’ll be the future president of South Africa.

However, moderate people in the ANC feel uncomfortable about the fact that the party has moved from leaders such as Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela to people like Zuma and Malema. There are 783 charges against Zuma. What’s more, he has a policy for every audience. If he was here today, he’d promise to increase or decrease tariffs on wine, depending on what you wanted. There’s grave concern about the fact that the party and man have become one and even more concern about the commitment to the supremacy of the law.

The idealism is gone. The ANC has shifted very quickly from being a liberation organisation with lofty ideals to being a normal party that serves the interests of its buddies. Meanwhile, there are different voices in the ANC. Some are advocating Kgalema Motlanthe as a presidential candidate, who is more acceptable to the world than Zuma. Others want a compromise-candidate.

Maybe the ANC should take a leaf out of the National Party’s book – eventually it realised it was better off without PW than with him. But I am upbeat about the future. I think we’re going back to hope and an element of competence. Our institutions will survive the politicians. History has shown that all the large ruling parties disappear completely in South Africa! We saw that throughout the 20th century. The parties that ruled from 1910 to 1924, from 1924 to 1939, from 1939 to 1948, from 1948 to 1994 – they’re all gone. The ANC will be no different… – Sonja Burger