Sunday, April 26, 2009

South African News Update: Zuma Proclaims 'New Era of Hope'

Zuma proclaims 'new era of hope'


The ANC could not manage to clinch the two-thirds majority in the 2009 elections and therefore will not have the power to change the Constitution unilaterally.

Although the party repeatedly assured the nation it would not change the Constitution, a two-thirds majority would have been a psychological victory for the new ANC leadership under Jacob Zuma. The party under former president Thabo Mbeki received 69,69% in the 2004 national elections while under Zuma it managed to secure only 65,9%.

Party leaders gathered with IEC officials and the media at the results centre on Saturday afternoon in Pretoria where the official results were announced.

Hugs were exchanged between Zuma and Congress of the People presidential candidate Mvume Dandala. Motlanthe quipped that the camaraderie between political parties was so evident that “someone should propose a no-party system”.

He expressed regret that the Keep it Straight and Simple party (Kiss) would not be taking part in the elections again.

“My heart is very sore that Kiss seems to be signalling this was indeed their last election. I hope they reconsider their position. They made these elections very interesting.“

The ANC has 264 seats in Parliament. It rules all the provinces with an overwhelming majority, except in the Western Cape, where the Democratic Alliance attained a majority. Cope was installed in the Free State, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Northern Cape as the official opposition. In KwaZulu-Natal, the official opposition is the IFP, which managed to only secure 18 seats against the ANC's 51.

The DA will take 64 members to Parliament, Cope will have 30 MPs and the IFP will have 18 members.

President Kgalema Motlanthe told parties that their participation was valued, even if they did not fare very well.

“As you know, progress is always a working out of opposites. Contest means there must always be different ideas and views directed to the electorate so that we can truly say it is a reflection of the will of the people,” he said at the IEC on Saturday.

He urged political parties to maintain contact with their communities between elections and to avoid “some kind of gap” developing.

Motlanthe said the country continued to learn and improve in the way it practiced democracy.

“Our next step would be to explore and examine possibilities of conducting our elections electronically. We know there is one political party that has a deep aversion to electronic voting,” he said, referring to the ANC delegates at at their elective conference in Polokwane who insisted on the manual counting of votes.

Motlanthe was also pleased that observer missions had declared the elections free and fair.

A triumphant Zuma proclaimed “a new era of hope” when he spoke after the results announcement to the media.

In a statesman-like speech, he vowed that the ruling party would use its mandate responsibly and that the party would maintain direct contact with ordinary South Africans.

“This is a time to bury uncertainty, pain and tension. We cannot afford to dwell on the negative, we have work to do.”

He reiterated that the government under his watch would be tough on non-performers and that there would be a change in the status quo. He shrugged off the fact that the party did not attain its two-thirds majority, and blamed the media for “shifting the goalposts when they should be congratulating the ANC on its decisive victory”.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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The power of the poor

WILLIAM GUMEDE: COMMENT - Apr 25 2009 06:00

Jacob Zuma and the ANC ran a brilliant campaign that successfully framed the 2009 election as a face-off between well-off blacks and whites on the one hand and the poor black majority on the other -- rather than on an examination of the government's record in power.

Zuma was voted in by the majority of poor black South Africans, for whom little has changed since 1994. To win elections in South Africa the support of the black poor and working class in townships, rural areas and informal settlements, more than 60% of the population, is crucial.

Zuma successfully portrayed himself as "poor", identifying his personal marginalisation by former president Thabo Mbeki with the marginalisation of the poverty-stricken masses. He successfully distanced himself from the failures of the ANC government in the minds of poor voters, blaming them on Mbeki.

Throughout the election campaign, his strategists portrayed his camp, which now dominates the ANC, as an almost different party. They projected Zuma and the new leadership as more pro-poor and democratic -- and paradoxically less corrupt -- suggesting they will offer effective government.

Zuma tapped into a dramatic change in the mood of South Africa's poor black majority. Forgotten by the elite, they have run out of patience and are now demanding the economic dividends of democratic rule.

Some poorer South Africans blame democracy itself for their marginalisation, rather than government incompetence, leadership indifference and public corruption. For many, the 16 formidable charges Zuma sidestepped were "manufactured" by Mbeki and rich blacks and whites who oppose a poor "peasant" from Inkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma successfully portrayed the abuse of democratic institutions by the Mbeki administration -- of which he was a member until 2005 -- as an attempt to exclude a downtrodden peasant and champion of the poor from the presidency and a manifestation of the marginalisation of the dispossessed under democracy.

Ominously, such framing creates a climate for political leaders to batter democratic institutions without risking much opposition from ordinary citizens. In their campaign against Zuma's corruption charges, the new ANC leadership closed down the Scorpions without consulting Parliament, which should have decided the issue, while repeatedly attacking critical media and judges who ruled against him.

Last week Zuma said the country's highest court, the Constitutional Court, is "not God". His supporters have launched a drive to purge Zuma critics in the ANC, government and state-owned companies. These are labelled as "coping" -- serving the Congress of the People.

He and some of his supporters also subtly played the ethnic card, encouraging Zulu-speakers to support him and claiming that Afrikaners are the "only real white South Africans". Such statements can only heighten ethnic divisions.

He has made many promises of policy and institutional reform, while providing little detail, no delivery timetable and no information on what programmes will cost. Cosatu, his ally, has failed to peg its support for him on delivery targets and clear time frames.

South Africa is about to face the full brunt of the global financial crisis, with rising job losses across the economy. Yet neither the ANC nor the opposition parties have proposed clear remedies with time frames.

Cope was unable to counter the ANC's message that it forms part of a rich black and white cabal which opposes the interests of the poor. It and the DA focused their campaigns on Zuma's compromised morals and attacks on democratic institutions.

This may have resonated in the black and white middle classes, but it fell on stony ground among those living in shacks, without jobs or food, who cling to Zuma's promises of free healthcare, education and social grants.

One thing is clear: the glue that binds the different factions within the ANC family is not consensus over policies, the direction of the country or ideology, but getting Zuma elected president.

To capture the top office, he has assembled a disparate coalition by promising every group what it wants to hear. Often the pledges are contradictory and some of his supporters are heading for disappointment.

Dashed expectations and infighting in the coalition over how to address South Africa's urgent problems under a Zuma presidency may trigger another split in the ANC.

And he is unlikely to have the honey­moon period enjoyed by past ANC governments. If he fails to deliver the poor will also turn against him.

His initial response to these pressures is not encouraging. Not yet formally in power, he has copied many vices of the Mbeki era from which he has distanced himself.

To prove his detractors wrong, he must use the best talents of all South Africans from all race groups, whether they are critical of him, rather than rewarding incompetent cronies, dodgy financial backers or those from the same ethnic group.

He must do more than talk about defending the Constitution, and democratic institutions and values, but reflect such commitments in his behaviour.

As Zuma assumes the presidency, he would do well to heed the warning of ANC veteran Mac Maharaj: "It is actions that are going to inspire confidence."

William Gumede is author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Where did Cope lose its way?


Why did the Congress of the People fare so badly? This was the central question which emerged from South Africa’s fourth democratic election.

While the breakaway party should have done much better, considering the excitement it generated after its formation, it still managed to become the official opposition in a handful of provinces.

The party, formed when the ANC split earlier this year, squandered their momentum. It was also riven with internal leadership squabbles, which did nothing for its cause.

It also appeared to have run out of money, and apart from some large advertisements wrapped around buildings, they were not visible enough.

Then again, no party was going to be able to compete with the ruling party, who seemed to throw everything into preparations for this poll.

Cope’s appearance however did galvanise the country and certainly contributed to the number of voters who said they were undecided ahead of the polls. In the event, many of those seemed to have voted for the ruling party in the privacy of the polling booth.

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