Public distrust, poor communication, and looting of funds meant for Covid-19 could haunt the ANC in the coming local government elections, political analysts have warned.
“If the previous local elections, during which there was no coronavirus pandemic are anything to go by, the ANC is more likely to lose further ground, especially in the metros and municipalities it did not do well in previously,” Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said.
“This would be the case even if there was no Covid-19 crisis, but the Covid-19 crisis will make ANC performance a little worse.”
According to Maluleke and Sthembile Mbete, from the University of Pretoria, government’s initial response in March was properly communicated.
“Initially it seemed that the government was making a science-led and carefully considered intervention, especially [with] the lockdowns. More importantly, the government had the trust of society then,” Maluleke said.
Echoing Maluleke, Mbete said: ”There was a high level of trust in President Cyril Ramaphosa and Heath Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.”
“A lot of sentiments shifted because of corruption in relation to things like the PPEs. People were promised sanitation, water, roads etc, which we haven’t seen much improvement of in the state of the pandemic. These inconsistencies are confusing for voters.”
Maluleke broke down some issue that could harm the ANC in the coming elections.
- Poor communication. There is too much reliance on non-interactive, “hit-and-run” presidential “family meetings”, absurd and contradictory communication between the president and the cabinet ministers, and “the scolding of citizens masquerading as communication”.
- The PPE corruption which took place in the midst of the pandemic.
- Police and army brutality during lockdown saw a number of South Africans losing their lives in the process.
- More recently, the government appears to be at sixes and sevens about the procurement of a vaccine for South Africa, with allegations of poor planning mounting. As a result, there has been anger, confusion, and misinformation leading to further loss of trust.
- Ongoing internal ruling party squabbles involving factions and corruption will further erode voter trust.
He said the performance of the ANC could not be assessed outside the performance of the three biggest political parties, namely the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
As for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Maluleke says it remained to be seen if the VBS scandal would haunt them in the eyes of the voters. Not forgetting the IFP with its untested leadership under Velenkosini Hlabisa, which he reckons could be “much an advantage as much as it could be a disadvantage”.
What should the ANC focus on?
While government’s attention was currently focused on mitigating the immediate impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Maluleke provided some insight into what the party should focus on in the midst of the pandemic.
“The ANC should be focusing on improving government communication with the citizens at this time,” Maluleke said.
“As the second wave of Covid-19 takes hold, we need a more frequent, more interactive, and robust communication format… ditch the ‘family meeting’ format, it has long reached its sell-by date.”
He said a vaccine was more urgent of an issue now than before.
“South Africans will not take kindly to talk about the cost constraints in a country that wastes so many resources on corruption,” he said.
“Get the vaccine… a vaccine rollout strategy is of no use if there is no certainty on vaccine procurement when other countries are already rolling out,” adding that April was too far and June, even farther.