As I sit down to write this, the final election results are just about in and, as we all expected, the ANC took home the majority of the votes. However, something happened that seemed all but impossible a few years ago.
At the age of 24, I am not quite a “born free”, but am still young enough to have no memory of pre-democratic South Africa. And, throughout my lifetime, all I’ve really known is South Africa under the rule of the ANC. As I remember it, my “political awakening”, so to speak came back in the general elections of 2004, when or beloved liberators, the ANC, won roughly two-thirds of the vote and the “opposition party”, Tony Leon’s DA, came away with less than 10% of the votes. The next best party was the IFP and nobody had ever heard of Julius Malema.
What was significant about the 2004 general election, besides that it was the first time I ever really, comprehensively understood what was going on, was that that election put the writing on the wall in terms of something we’ve now taken for granted, the ANC will be holding onto power in our country for a very, very long time…
2004 marked the 10-year anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. And, by then, it was already clear that the ruling party would not be fulfilling its electoral promises of free housing, free education and improved living conditions, which the voters bought into so naively when they ticked their ballots in the historical election that brought Nelson Mandela into power and has kept the ANC in charge ever since.
And, to this day, the impoverished citizens of South Africa, the uneducated, the disenfranchised… the majority of our population continue to cast their votes for a once-great party, because they truly believe that their lives will get better. Or perhaps they just believe that their lives can’t get any worse. After all, the ANC has been very smart about the way it can blame any problem in our country on the legacy of apartheid. And, if you were to believe some of the things you hear in the media, any vote not for the ANC, is a vote to bring back apartheid. This may explain why our voter turnout in the municipal elections was a mere 57.72%. Perhaps the ANC’s discouraged voters are simply choosing not to vote, rather than changing allegiances (the stupidity of which I will not even bother getting into).
Staying with the present, and with the ANC, let’s discuss our honourable president. Say what you want about president Jacob Zuma, the man has balls. He’s a fucking rock star. The Charlie Sheen of politics if you will… I’m not going to go into the man’s list of (alleged) criminal accolades, but when you can be involved in the Arms Deal, get charged with rape and corruption and still find yourself elected to power, you’ve done something right. When you can make outrageous remarks like that you thought you could prevent yourself from contracting HIV by “taking a shower” and when you struggle to read numbers that go beyond four figures, but you still hold the most important office in the country, you must be a different kind of genius. When you can get away with spending hundreds of millions of Rands of public money to turn your house into a mall, you are a boss.
I mean, it would be like showing up to work with your dick hanging out, drinking the free coffee, stealing the stationary, leaving at lunch and laughing at your boss when he calls you in for a disciplinary hearing. From Shabbir Shaikh to the Guptas to the SABC to Marikana, Mr. Zuma’s term in office, as well as in the Vice-President’s office. and even before then has been dirtier than a farmer’s clod hoppers.
And, even though it seemed like it never would, South Africa woke up. Starting with the youth, those younger than me, the “born-frees”. I was not a fan of the #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall protests, but it showed that there’s a new generation of South Africans that will not be apathetic. And now, the ANC may have won a majority in the municipal elections, but they won narrowly over 50% of the votes. They couldn’t win by an outright majority in Johannesburg, the DA won the Western Cape (by miles), Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane.
So, the ANC’s grip is loosening as it struggles to keep power in our country and South Africans are no longer taking any shit. The government is being held to account. And who’s the hero? I have to say that I think it’s Jacob Zuma. He’s taken corruption, stupidity, insolence and sheer evil to a whole new level. A level that woke South Africa from its long slumber and has us calling for our democracy back.