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By Brendan Seery

Deputy Editor


ANC’s death is wishful thinking

None of the opponents of the ANC – other than the EFF and the newly formed MK party – offers anything like a populist alternative to the ruling party.


In a few social media threads relating to Zimbabwe in recent months, I have seen the resurfacing of the old myth that Robert Mugabe never won the independence elections in 1980 and the British government handed over power to his Zanu(PF) party to stop the bloody civil war. Certainly, the settlement at Lancaster House at the end of 1979 was aimed at ending the war, which had cost more than 30 000 lives up to that point. So Lord Carrington and the British negotiators – along with Mozambique leader Samora Machel, whose country was also devastated by the conflict –…

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In a few social media threads relating to Zimbabwe in recent months, I have seen the resurfacing of the old myth that Robert Mugabe never won the independence elections in 1980 and the British government handed over power to his Zanu(PF) party to stop the bloody civil war.

Certainly, the settlement at Lancaster House at the end of 1979 was aimed at ending the war, which had cost more than 30 000 lives up to that point.

So Lord Carrington and the British negotiators – along with Mozambique leader Samora Machel, whose country was also devastated by the conflict – pressured Mugabe and Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo to sign the peace papers.

However, that myth that the “acceptable” (to white Rhodesians anyway) African leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, would have won the one-man, one-vote elections in 1980, ignores reality.

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Most white Rhodesians believed their own propaganda – that “The Bishop” was the man the people adored and that their black countrymen and women would not vote for Mugabe, who was clearly a “terrorist”.

They – and some foreign supporters of the government of Ian Smith, including South Africa – were also taken in by this wishful thinking.

Even Mugabe’s triumphant return to the then Salisbury (now Harare) and the 300 000- plus crowd it attracted (effectively one in three of the entire population of the city at that time) didn’t sway those opinions.

So, there was massive shock in many quarters when Mugabe appeared on TV ahead of the announcement of the election results, as the prime minister-in-waiting, proclaiming his policy of reconciliation between races and political parties.

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I am reminded of this every time I see the almost frenetic dash to write the obituary of the ANC. What you wish for can sometimes be a universe away from the reality.

My personal prediction is that the ANC will not only win this year’s election, it will get something between 55% and 57% of the vote.

The opposition parties – the EFF, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and ActionSA – will never, by themselves, garner enough votes to unseat the ruling party.

What has been happening at municipal level with ruinous coalitions forged because the ANC did not retain the whip hand, is irrelevant to the national picture.

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None of the opponents of the ANC – other than the EFF and the newly formed MK party – offers anything like a populist alternative to the ruling party.

And make no mistake, anyone hoping to unseat the ruling party is going to have to show they can “look after” people, as well as the ANC.

Before the shouts of derision, let me point out that multiple billions of taxpayers’ money goes into various financial support mechanisms for poor people, ranging from pensions and disability grants to university tuition and residence payments.

The ANC has made no attempt to disabuse ordinary South Africans of their belief that this money tap is controlled by the party – and, indeed, some unscrupulous ruling party politicians have told people that grants will disappear if parties like the DA are elected.

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On top of that, matters of corruption are remote for many poor people, worried as they are about jobs and food. Also, the ANC is a powerful, multi-generational brand, which has managed to cling to the illusion that it is revolutionary.

The 2024 elections, I think, are going to prove that, when it comes to South African voters, old habits – and even obviously bad habits – are going to be very difficult to break.

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