The South African Federation of Trade Unions – SAFTU has noted the results of the hotly contested 08 May 2019 elections. We are relieved that these elections were conducted under conditions of stability and peace, which allowed the citizens to express their will freely. We commend all the parties who participated in the elections. We have noted that despite serious concerns expressed by some parties and the accepted the polls results. This is a sign of political maturity. In some countries, a war begins immediately after the announcement of results.
The results of the elections confirm the correctness of our analysis we have been making over the short period of two years of our existence. The ANC, the once mighty prime movement of the people, is on an irreversible decline. The ship is sinking! Shifting chairs in the sinking ship or even getting a new captain to steer the sinking ship will not stop the inevitable.
The ANC is fast becoming a rural party as it is fast losing the support of the urban poor working class. Even the comfort it used to enjoy in the rural areas is now shaken.
The growing numbers of people are not fooled! They have passed a resounding vote of no confidence to the status quo by refusing to participate in the elections designed to maintain the status quo.
The writing of Frantz Fanon captures this mood when he said:
“The peasant who goes on scratching out a living from the soil, and the unemployed man who never finds employment do not manage, in spite of public holidays and flags, new and brightly-coloured though they may be, to convince themselves that anything has changed in their lives. The bourgeoisie who are in power vainly increase the number of processions; the masses have no illusions. They are hungry; and the police officers, though now they are Africans, do not serve to reassure them particularly. The masses begin to sulk; they turn away from this nation in which they have been given no place and begin to lose interest in it.”
Indeed the masses are sulking. According to the IEC, there are 36,5 million people who are eligible to vote yet only 26,7 million registered. This means 9.8 million people did not register to vote. Of the 26,7 million who registered only 17 million voted. This means that 9,7 million did not vote even though they had registered. Further a staggering quarter of a million decided to spoil their votes. The majority of our people did not vote. This trend has been established in the past elections already. This communicates an unequivocal message to political parties: “we don’t trust all of you! We have not faith in politics any more!”
There is a deepening crisis of representation in our political system. None of the political parties enjoys any legitimacy. Even the trade union movement, which is today representing a mere 24% of the working population, suffers from the same crisis of legitimacy. Civic society and the rest of the working class formations have been tremendously weakened.
The cry of our people is unequivocal, and the question they are asking is “who represents us?”
The main driver of the disillusionment is the growing number of South Africans trapped in degrading poverty, catastrophic unemployment, growing inequalities, runaway corruption, frightening levels of crime, dysfunctional public healthcare and education, landlessness, propertyless, etc.
Regrettably, the ANC and its allies notwithstanding the free-fall of support remain absolutely resolute that the failed big business-friendly economic policies that reproduce these conditions shall remain. The champagne cocks are popping in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. There is an excitement in the Big business chambers not only in our country but also in New York, London, Paris, etc. that the status quo will be maintained – the rich will continue to be richer and the poor more poorer.
This situation is succinctly captured again in the Frantz Fanon excellent writings in the “pitfalls of the national consciousness.”
“The people stagnate deplorably in unbearable poverty; slowly they awaken to the unutterable treason of their leaders. This awakening is all the more acute in that the bourgeoisie is incapable of learning its lesson.”
SAFTU calls firstly on its affiliated unions and members to go analyse the meaning of these elections. Every formation of the working class is called upon to go back to the drawing board and ask serious questions about the meaning of today’s political economy. SAFTU will produce a more detailed analysis of the elections trends to draw vital lessons that will be subjected to detailed discussions within its ranks.