My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
The most recent local government by-election results (from elections held on 21 July) should at the very least concern political strategists of the governing ANC. A few interesting trends have been confirmed by these results.
First, the ANC’s support amongst colored voters in the Western Cape – even in rural areas – has collapsed dramatically. The ANC has become an African party with very little support amongst members of other race groups. So much for the ANC’s much advertised non-racialism. Whether this has something to do with the embarrassing tantrums and childish rants of a leader like Julius Malema is not clear. What is clear is that the ANC in the Western Cape has completely alienated non-African black voters.
Second, the DA has made modest (but very limited) gains amongst African voters. These gains are more pronounced in small rural towns than in the big cities but remains limited. The DA still has a lot of work to do to convince African voters that it could possibly represent their interests. Even where traditional ANC voters want to cast protest votes they are more likely to cast such votes for independent candidates (or even for Cope) than for the DA candidate.
Speaking of Cope, interestingly, Cope has done surprisingly well in some of the by-elections. This is particularly the case in Cape Town where it gained between 15 and 25% of the vote in constituencies dominated by African voters. This suggests that the voter support for Cope might not have imploded completely despite the dreadful infighting in that party. Maybe something could still be rescued for this sorry bunch of infighters.
Third, some credible independent candidates in certain areas have stolen a large percentage of votes from the ANC while the voter turnout in ANC dominated constituencies where no credible independent candidates were standing, was very low – as low as 25% in some cases. This suggests that the electoral dominance of the ANC – while still very pronounced – is not as solid as it used to be. If credible candidates or parties stood for election, many African voters seem now for the first time prepared to abandon the ANC. This is in line with electoral trends in many other post independent countries, where the party of liberation starts losing its absolute dominance after about 20 years of freedom.
If these patterns are to be repeated in the local government election next year (by no means a forgone conclusion) and if the ANC fails galvanize its traditional supporters to go to the polls, the party will suffer very heavy losses. This will be to the benefit of the DA who might receive almost the same number of votes but a much higher percentage of the votes because of lower turn out.
Lastly, the ANC is continuing to show growth in KwaZulu-Natal at the expense of the hapless IFP. At this rate the IFP would be dead before Mangosuthu Buthelezi is finally disposed of as leader. The IFP is basically dead. The fights about who should succeed Buthelezi as leader is really just a fight about who should oversee the funeral of the IFP.
Of course, these results show clearly why the ANC wants to co-ordinate local government and national elections. In national elections its freedom credentials might still hold sway while elections fought on the failure of local governments (and not on national issues) would make life rather difficult for the ANC – especially where credible alternative candidates come forward.BACK TO TOP