If the ANC wants to turn back its electoral misfortunes in the local government elections, the party must address the trust deficit that exists between it and voters on the ground.
That is the view of political analyst, Sanusha Naidu, who says the governing party is heading into the 1 November municipal elections with a lot of South Africans still doubting the sincerity of its renewal agenda after years of infighting, corruption scandals and failed governance at most of its municipalities.
Speaking to The Citizen ahead of the ANC’s election manifesto launch in Pretoria on Monday evening, Naidu said President Cyril Ramaphosa should take the bold step of apologising to South Africans for the ANC’s failures over the last decades if the party wants to bridge the gap between it and voters.
“I don’t think they have managed to address the trust deficit with the ruling party and the question of whether or not people feel comfortable, particularly those that are outside of its structures, do they feel comfortable in the credibility of the party,” Naidu said.
“It’s going to be harder for them to go out and tell people to trust them and that they’re changing and are going to do things differently. That’s is what president Ramaphosa was trying to do when he got elected, but unfortunately, he got elected into a very chaotic party.”
ANC caught up in ‘self-implosion’
Naidu said the ANC, unlike opposition parties, has been in power in most municipalities since the advent of South Africa’s democracy and faces the challenge of getting voters to look past its mistakes.
“That’s going to be the bigger test on the legitimacy, credibility and the trust of the party. At the end of the day, I think that the party is so caught up in its internal self-implosion that it is going to be harder to convince the electorate to trust them that they’re really changing,” she said.
Naidu said voters had already expressed to ANC during door-to-door campaigns their concerns related to service delivery, and she does not think the party could address this unless it does something drastic to change its ways.
“Because the perception that the electorate has and the responses that the electorate has is that this party has been going from crisis to crisis.
“And every time that the party is in crisis, it takes the state into its crisis and becomes part of the crisis of the party.”
Does the ANC have a good story to tell?
She said the ANC is likely to boast about its service delivery track record over the last 28 years, but “the numbers are only as good as they look on paper”.
“I think the challenge is that the ANC is the ruling party and it’s got a lot of account for. And it doesn’t help when you have a situation where the party is caught in an indelible crisis time after time. It is constantly in a chaotic moment and disarray,” Naidu said.
Naidu added that it remained to be seen whether the ANC’s election message and promises would resonate with voters after the polls.
“I think this time around the questions will be, how many ANC voters will come out and vote for them. And how many have actually registered to vote.”