SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Socialism Today 83 - May 2004

ANC wins, but anger grows

THE OVERWHELMING majority won by the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa’s April election, nearly 70% of the vote, has predictably been hailed by its leadership and most of the media as a ringing endorsement of its policies.

This view has been reinforced by the crushing defeat of the apartheid-era parties. The New National Party (NNP), reduced from 20% in the first democratic elections in 1994 to just under 7% in 1999, received a humiliating 257,000 votes (less than 1%). The party that brutally oppressed the black majority for nearly 50 years has been virtually obliterated and is facing well-deserved extinction.

The bloodstained Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), that collaborated with the apartheid regime in slaughtering over 20,000 black people in the 1980s and early 1990s, has slipped back from 10% in 1994 to just under 7%. More significantly, it lost control of its traditional stronghold, KwaZulu Natal. It cannot even put together a ruling majority with its new partner, the Democratic Alliance (DA), despite the failure of the ANC to gain an outright majority in that province. The increased vote for the DA – an offspring of the white, liberal, former Democratic Party that served as an opposition under apartheid – to 12.3% (1.7% 1994, 8.5% in 1999) is due mainly to the fact that it benefited from the collapse of the NNP. NNP support among people of mixed race, a majority in the Western Cape, and whites collapsed after it entered an alliance with the ANC in its former stronghold.

The 10.8 million votes for the ANC do not represent increased support for its policies. It is still seen as the party of liberation. And there is no viable alternative. With virtually all the opposition parties offering capitalist economic programmes fundamentally the same as the ANC’s, voters had no choice. Many hoped that the promise of increases, however slight, in pensions, child support and disability grants, of one million jobs in five years, and the move to supply Aids drugs, signalled the beginning of policies to address poverty and unemployment.

More significant than the ANC majority is the decline in the numbers voting. After a strenuous effort, the Independent Electoral Commission pushed the number of registered voters to 20 million. Another seven million did not register. Only 48% of under 25-year-olds registered. Fifteen million voted, down from 16 million in 1999 (75%) and 19.5 million in 1994 (89%). The ANC’s landslide represents only 38% of eligible voters.

The 70% vote is a poisoned chalice. The smashing of the capitalist opposition parties by the masses has removed all the ANC’s lame excuses for policies that have led to eight million unemployed, 57% living in poverty, and 650 people dying every day from HIV/Aids.

The ANC is now the main party of the capitalist class. In 1994, the ANC vote was massaged downwards to prevent it from gaining the two-thirds majority necessary to change the constitution. In the 1999 election hysteria, the ANC miraculously fell short of a two-thirds majority by the exact number of votes for one seat. This time round, the markets have taken the 70% majority in their stride. Since the floor-crossing episode in 2000, when many opposition MPs went over to the ANC, it has had a two-third’s majority anyway. The ANC has earned the trust of the capitalist class which rewarded it by donating R13 million (£1.1m, $1.9m) to its election campaign.

Committed to the creation of a black capitalist class, the ANC’s policies will create further misery for the working-class majority. The continued growth of the black capitalist and middle classes will accelerate class polarisation. This will fertilise the soil for the development of a mass workers’ party. Last year, a survey of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) affiliates revealed that one third of workers would support the formation of a workers’ party.

The Cosatu leadership, as part of the Tripartite Alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP – only supported by 4% in the Cosatu survey), campaigned for the ANC. But over 6,000 members left the chemical workers’ union, when they were denied a vote on whether Cosatu should remain part of the Tripartite Alliance, to join an independent union. The campaign for a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme will find an increasing echo in the next period.

Weizmann Hamilton,

Democratic Socialist Movement,

South Africa


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