Sifelani Tsiko Agriculture, Environment & Innovations Editor
Jobs, service delivery, corruption, internal divisions and failure to adapt to the changing social, economic and political environment are now the major key issues that are now significantly eroding the support base of most liberation movements in southern Africa.
A case in point is the latest victory by the ANC, which won a reduced vote of 58 percent — down from a peak nearly 70 percent in the 2004 elections.
In the first elections open to all races which were held in April 1994, the ANC won 62 percent and Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president.
Critics say perceptions that the party was soft on corruption and internal fractures and poor service delivery, rising unemployment and failure to adapt to a changing environment are all to blame for the ANC’s drop in support.
In addition, they cited ANC’s failure to reach a consensus and mobilise the country’s young people with both passion and pragmatism as another major issue.
In the latest polls, ANC garnered 58 percent, beating its main challengers — the DA which got 20 percent followed by the EFF with 10 percent.
Electoral trends inside Africa’s biggest economy and the rest of the SADC region are changing and support for major liberation movements is no longer guaranteed unless the ruling parties quickly move to fix challenges facing the majority of the black poor.
Corruption has emerged as the number one problem, with critics arguing liberation movements are doing little to fight it.
Most critics largely say liberation movements are condoning it by paying lip service to the fight against graft.
Times are changing and voters are also changing in terms of their needs and demands.
Linking their campaigns to history and independence is no longer enough. The just-ended South African election just shows that voters will not be moved much by the liberation movements’ emotional historical connections.
Liberation movements have to honour their election promises and meet the expectations of the majority of the poor who want an efficient service delivery system, jobs and an effective fight against corruption.
Corruption has dented heavily the image of most liberation movements that include the ANC, People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Tanzania), Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) and the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).
People want the parties to act on corruption. They want to see results.
Furthermore, the majority of people want to see improved governance and change in the performance of their economies that leads to greater employment opportunities, improved utility and service delivery.
In addition, people want elected leaders to take full responsibility of their actions — successes and failures.
Both urban and rural populations want improved access to basic goods and services such as better healthcare and education facilities.
The just-ended South African elections should act as a major reference point for most liberation movements in Southern Africa.
South Africa’s elections are over and the next polls in the region are going to be held in Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.
SWAPO and FRELIMO as well as the Botswana Democratic Party should read a lot into the South African polls.
ZANU-PF won 145 of the 210 seats in the National Assembly in the 2018 harmonised elections against MDC-Alliance’s 63.
ZANU-PF has survived major onslaught from western machinations bent on removing it from power. The party is facing similar challenges as those of the ANC.
Renewal and undertaking major reforms should be the watchwords of liberation movements.
In Zimbabwe, major reforms that were spearheaded by President Mnangagwa just before the 2018 polls saved ZANU-PF from losing a huge chunk of its support base.
Similarly, the reform agenda led by President Cyril Ramaphosa just before the SA polls saved the ANC from the further erosion of its support base.
Most people want the liberation movements to break from their past characterised by intolerance, corruption and the existence of parasitic factions that dominated everything under former leaders.
The process of introspection is a must for the continued survival of liberation movements.
Leaders of the liberation movements and their supporters must take collective responsibility for their dwindling support and dismal performance in some constituencies.
The parties must continuously strengthen their structures and appeal to the youth to retain their popular mandate.
Without proper re-organisation and mobilising themselves to win the youth vote, it wont be surprising that the parties’ support base will continue to decline before they lose power completely in the future.
An honest introspection of the state of the liberation movements and carrying out full reforms could help cleanse them and retain favour with the masses.
Liberation movements have to grapple between modernisation versus stagnation and, more importantly, between fighting graft effectively and condoning it.
Factional fights must be stopped as the stakes are getting higher in future polls. Opposition parties are also refining their strategies and carrying out reforms to garner more support.
They are analysing their weaknesses and strengths too.
Liberation movements are not immune to plummeting support and their supporters say what happened in South Africa will not necessarily translate into victories for local political opposition parties.
Major learning points for liberation movements are the rising figures for spoilt ballots and voter stayaways particularly among the youth.
The EFF, which came third in the elections, almost doubled its votes, moving up from slightly over 6 percent in 2014 to 10 percent this year.
Even though elections in Southern African countries are unlikely to bring any major surprises as opposition parties are still weak and disorganised, liberation movements must not rest on their laurels.
Liberation movements-turned-political parties must reform and act on corruption to remain popular with the masses.
“Despite impassioned campaign efforts from the liberal Democratic Alliance (DA) and the left-wing populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), there have certainly been no seismic shifts,” a political analyst observed.
“The election result was as predicted: the ANC lost votes, but not as dramatically as could have been expected. But at the same time, neither the DA nor the EFF gained much from the ruling party’s losses, which one may have reasonably expected. The EFF did not manage to hit a nerve as a protest party and the DA even lost votes.”
Cashing in on their past must not be the only selling point for liberation movements, but realigning themselves to meet the deep- seated problems facing the masses, fight corruption and addressing the needs of the disillusioned youth will guarantee their future.
Masses must not be taken for granted. Their needs and expectations must be met.
Liberation movements and their party leaders should ratchet up their anti-corruption agenda and clean up their structures and organs to survive the next round of elections.
They have to adopt a battery of measures to atone for the criminal legacies of some of their predecessors and members.
Without self-renewal, an honest and aggressive fight against corruption, reaching out to the youth and addressing the concerns of the majority of the poor, liberation movements could face the choppy and murky waters of brutal and competitive politics in the coming future.