Over the weekend leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters Julius Malema demonstrated, if another demonstration was necessary, that he intends to make the 2019 elections all about race. At the same time, the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader and then president of the country has led to claims that our politics is about to change fundamentally.
It is, obviously, incredibly foolish to attempt to predict the issues and outcomes of the 2019 elections on a date as early as today’s. The land issue could play out in complex and emotive ways, or somehow end up on the back burner as it has for the last 20 years.
Still, the actions of some politicians are rather revealing. The biggest variable is probably not going to be the behaviour of the opposition parties at all, but the way that the ANC conducts itself.
For some opposition parties, this must be a scary moment: Jacob Zuma the Bogeyman is no longer there. But politics also has intended and unintended consequences. Malema may actually end up strengthening the DA in some ways, while the ANC is not necessarily the unified body it proclaims to be. On top of this, and despite the focus on urban areas and Gauteng, one of the biggest questions is going to be what happens in KwaZulu-Natal.
In a country with our economy, if there were such a thing as a “normal” election, the issues would surely be unemployment, corruption, and racialised inequality. These are the issues driving our day to day reality, resulting in poverty which dominates so much of our nation’s life. It is obvious that Ramaphosa knows this. In his first major speech as ANC leader he spoke about the “social pact” he wants to create between business, government and labour, and then about the need to fight corruption. He has also appeared to act in a reconciliatory manner, by speaking to everyone, often in their own languages. This means that for him, and presumably for the ANC, if there can be hope for the economy, the 2019 elections will be much easier for his party.
For the DA, the main focus is likely to be on their claims of superior service delivery and corruption. It is in their interests that the scandals involving senior ANC leaders during, and even after, the Zuma years, keep coming to light. The appointment of David Mabuza as Deputy President probably led to Mmusi Maimane sleeping much better last week. The hurdles they face in keeping the taps flowing in Cape Town are a huge headache, while they hope that change is visible in Tshwane, Joburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. And of course, they need to ensure they retain Nelson Mandela Bay in light of the EFF’s plan to hand it back to the ANC.
This then takes us back to the EFF, and the comments over the weekend from Malema that he is going after Athol Trollip as mayor in that city, because he is white. He claims that by “cutting the throat of [...]