South Africa’s 2016 municipal elections set the stage …

The results of the 2016 municipal elections will soon be out. These elections have been treated like a national election because they focussed on national rather than local issues and so they may give some indications for the future.

The results so far see the ANC losing much of its majority in the metros and so confirming itself as a rural party, but with a precarious hold on sufficient rural support. The DA making significant gains but not enough to gain outright control of any of the municipalities except Cape Town and unlikely therefore to govern and the EFF making solid process moving from being a regional party to a truly national party and taking on the very powerful role of king maker.

What does this all mean and what will it mean in the national elections in 2019?

The ANC now knows it needs to do something about the ZANC if it wants to stop the move away from it in the metros. It still holds the credentials, for example Johannesburg is the best managed metro, the only one with an improved credit rating but it has lost support from the intelligentsia and urban professionals to the EFF and people who voted with their feet by staying away. Its hubris is showing and strong action needs to be taken by them to halt the slide. This must mean a change of leadership at the top, whether that happens as a recall nor or just the election of someone else at the electoral conference time will tell. The slide hasn’t been dramatic enough for panic stations but will continue if ignored.

The DA campaign was the same as it has been since the Tony Leon “fight back” days and even before when much of its support voted National Party and been based on fear. Pre 1994 it was swart gevaar now its ‪#‎Zumamustfall‬. If Zuma goes it may be stuck as its campaign is much like the GOP in the USA based on convincing angry white people that their way of life is under siege.

The DA needs Zuma. Its track record in the Western Cape of neoliberal trickle down economics is not working, Cape Town is the crime capital of South Africa, it is the most unequal province and is facing civil society taking it to the Constitutional Court because of its handing of property issues and the lack of consultation with the community. It has given no attention to solving apartheid spacial planning issues, which are fundamental to access to the economy.

The big winners are the democratic socialist EFF. They have changed from a regional power to a national power and have become king maker. They hold the balance of power in the major metros and that fact allows then to exercise enormous influence. It also forces the ANC to consider its own neoliberal agenda and consider steps that need to be taken to reform the economy. The EFF will undoubtedly drive a very hard bargain with a weakened ANC as they have been given huge negotiating capital.

It is also unlikely that the DA will find coalition partners.

The stage is set for interesting politics in the coming months, The ANC reforming and regaining some support but with a hard job ahead to regain the young professionals and intelligentsia. The EFF consolidating its support and probably aiming at 12 to 15% of the vote in 2019 but also forcing the ANC to change. The DA on a knife edge. Its campaign of fear, colour blind racism and polarisation is not sustainable and I still don’t believe that there is much room to move forward. They appeal to too small a constituency and have maxed out.

All in all this is good news for South Africa and for our fledgling democracy.

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