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Support slumps for rival to South Africa’s ANC

December 18, 2009

SAFRICA-ELECTION/CELEBRATIONIt would be hard for the leaders of South Africa’s COPE party to put a positive spin on its latest poll rating of just over 2 percent. If the breakaway group from the African National Congress gave the ANC a bit of a jolt before elections in April, the ruling party doesn’t seem to have much to worry about from that quarter now.

In terms of electoral success, it hasn’t been a good year for parties trying to challenge the former liberation movements that run most of southern Africa.

In Namibia, a breakaway group from the ruling SWAPO party emerged as the main opposition, but still only won just over 11 percent of the vote and complained of foul play. In Mozambique, Frelimo won another resounding victory, beating both old rival Renamo and the new MDM – which complained at the barring of some of its candidates.

Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signalled to his MPLA party that he would wait another three years before a presidential election he is almost certain to win.

The picture is somewhat different in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe was forced into a power sharing deal with rival Morgan Tsvangirai, a former union leader, but even there the one-time guerrilla told his ZANU-PF recently to stop bickering and mobilise to win ‘uncontested victory’ in the next election.

There is a big difference between South Africa and some of its neighbours in that nobody is challenging the fairness of the electoral system.

But the same question arises here as elsewhere as to when, if ever, opposition parties might be able to seriously challenge the hold of the movements that came to power through their victories over colonial or minority rule.

COPE (Congress of the People) may not be much of a threat to the ANC because of its leadership squabbles and uncertainty over its policies: ‘Cope has since inception been preaching modernity when it has not made a concerted effort to define this “modernity”’ commented Sentletse Diakanyo on this blog.

But the ANC might have more to worry about closer to home in the squabbling between its vocal Youth League leader Julius Malema and others in the ruling alliance, the Communist Party and COSATU union federation.

Although within the same camp, could there be deeper differences between the ruling party and its allies than with some of its enemies?

“This situation looks very much like the industrial working class versus crony capitalist wannabes,” wrote Nic Borain of one recent race-tinged disagreement over the leadership of state power firm Eskom. “I think this fault line is fundamental to where we are heading and struggles here will constantly alter and trim our direction.”

South Africa’s industrial working class is a minority relative to groups such as the rural poor and those with scant hope of ever finding jobs, but there is little doubt over the unions’ ability to organise and punch above that weight.

Picture: Musicians entertain senior ANC members after April election victory. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A year ago, I, together with the collective I worked with in the Motheo Region of the Congress of the People hosted multitudes in our city of Bloemfontein. They were all joining COPE hoping it would live up to our expectations of a party that would liberate us from the clutches of a party I had loved so much for a quarter of a century. This party (ANC) was riddled with opportunistic tendencies and the disciplinary code of the party was being used to purge any members who were suspected of dissent. Unfortunately COPE became an extension of the battles which were waged in the ANC thus the resignation immediately after the inaugural conference of the conference organiser, Mr. Lucky Thekisho. I have since then also left the Congress of the People and I am not surprised about the 2% as it is proof that people would never opt for an imitation. The ANC will continue to have my support now that Julius Malema is bringing back that robustness in engagement which some of us grew under!

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