Winnie’s death ‘could give ANC a boost’
However, it will be difficult for the ruling party to turn this into votes as it has lost support due to very damaging behaviour, analysts say.
ANCWL members celebrate struggle icon Winnie Mandela’s life at Orlando Stadium in Soweto,14 April 2018, at a memorial service. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and the national despair over her passing, could work in favour of the ruling ANC, which will most likely use her name to attempt to redeem itself and reconnect with the people.
However, pundits believe that despite the party using every opportunity to drape itself in Madikizela-Mandela’s image as “the people’s heroine”, this won’t necessarily translate into votes come 2019.
They say it would take more than exploiting the anguish surrounding a single event for the ANC to recoup the support it lost over nearly the last decade.
Three analysts – Dumisani Hlophe, Somadoda Fikeni and Ralph Mathekga – concur that it is a tradition of all political parties to use its departed heroes to help boost their support and gain sympathy from the anguished electorate.
Hlophe said heroes give a motive for the party to encourage members and drum up support, especially close to an election. Political parties tend to invoke emotions using the name, image and the works of their martyrs.
“All political parties benefit from their departed heroes, because they reflect the history and legacy of the party,” he said.
“Politics by nature is about invoking the emotions of the people, and the ANC will use Madikizela-Mandela as a reference point, as it has been doing with Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani and Solomon Mahlangu.”
He said departed heroes enhanced the culture of the party, as they symbolised the organisation’s culture, history, and policies.
Fikeni said the ANC would use Madikizela-Mandela’s death to show that although they disagreed with certain members, as they had done with her, they did not expel her and others, as other parties may have done.
“It is a lesson for society.”
Fikeni believes Madikizela-Mandela’s death was a double-edged sword for the ANC.
“They will gain from the fact that she was its product, and that she did not abandon or betray the struggle,” said Fikeni.
“She recently appeared with Cyril Ramaphosa in public, which showed that political parties use their heroes and martyrs as marketing tools for the organisation.
“That the ANC declared this the centenary year of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu is deliberately a marketing strategy towards 2019.”
Her death would not only boost the ANC, but would be used by its women’s league to recruit.
“They will try to revive their weak position in society by using her image as a people’s person.”
Fikeni said in some instances some parties would steal the heroes or legacy of other parties. He said the EFF’s move to piggy-back and claim ANC heroes such as Madikizela-Mandela could help them because its history was interlinked with the ANC’s.
But an attempt by the DA to use Nelson Mandela’s name, along with that of Helen Suzman, for its election campaign, had failed and backfired for the party.
Mathekga said there was no doubt the ANC’s reputation would gain from Madikizela-Mandela’s death and commemorations.
“It’s a good story for the party, showing their connection to the struggle and reminding the people about the cruelty of apartheid. The story goes well with the renewed radical economic talks in the ANC,” Mathekga said.
The general opinion among ANC members, its allies and external observers was that former president Jacob Zuma’s leadership of the party contributed to it losing support due to the high rate of state corruption and infighting and factionalism.
Zuma’s successor Ramaphosa’s approach was to bring unity in the party.
But the analysts doubted this could translate into votes for the ANC in 2019.
“It will become a serious rhetoric of the party in 2019. Her name will be attached to their campaign but it will be difficult to turn this into electoral support,” said Mathekga.