In an ideal world, municipal elections are about local issues affecting specific communities, with little consideration of national politics.
But we all know that the upcoming local government elections will be as much a referendum on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government and its performance as they will be about municipalities’ delivery of water, electricity and other basic services to residents.
This, of course, is not new. It was the case in 2011 when we saw the ANC starting to shed votes in certain areas as a result of the scandals associated with then president Jacob Zuma.
We witnessed the same in 2016 when the ruling party was muscled out of a couple of metros on the back of growing negative public sentiment towards Zuma and other party members associated with the Gupta-led state capture project.
So opposition parties such as the DA and the EFF, as well as newcomers such as Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, will be looking at the outcomes of the upcoming polls for any signs that will help them bring the ANC’s support in the 2024 general election to below 50%.
But it is not only the strength of the opposition and the extent of the ANC’s decline that will be under scrutiny at these polls.’Tis the season of hot air and hollow election promisesIt remains to be seen how parties and independent candidates will conduct their campaigns in the middle of the pandemic, writes Ray McCauley.OPINION & ANALYSIS18 hours ago
As our democracy matures and elections become more competitive, much attention is being paid to the performance of the Independent Electoral Commission. And rightly so.
Since its establishment in the mid-1990s, the IEC has been one of the great success stories of the South African democratic project. It has always delivered credible, free and fair elections whose results are generally accepted by all.
As a result, many of the countries that embarked on the road to democracy after us looked up to the IEC for guidance in electoral best practices.
It can be argued, for instance, that the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country once ravaged by civil war – would not have been able to hold its first-ever multiparty democratic elections without the logistical help and expertise of the South African IEC.
The same can be said of the likes of South Sudan.
Here at home, the IEC remains one of the most trusted brands in the political arena.
But as the gap between the ruling party and the opposition narrows, there is likely to be a lot of pressure from both sides to have the body act in ways that favour their respective interests.
It is in this period that its independence and credibility are going to be tested.
For the sake of us all, it dare not fail.
We have also seen the IEC’s role come under increased scrutiny this year as the DA and other parties questioned decisions that they deemed to unfairly favour the ANC
Subsequent to the outcomes of the 2016 polls we saw how sections of the ANC tried to lean on the electoral body to rule in their favour in disputes that would have determined who gets to win the mayoral seat.
We have also seen the IEC’s role come under increased scrutiny this year as the DA and other parties questioned decisions that they deemed to unfairly favour the ANC.
But, even though disputes between an electoral body and political parties are to be expected, especially when the stakes are as high as they are now, such a body should always keep to high professional standards.
Its duty is to see to it that the playing field is level, that all parties adhere to regulations and that those who break the rules are properly sanctioned.
Political parties, on the other hand, have a responsibility too, not to undermine the credibility of the IEC through unfounded allegations of partiality.
It may be tempting for some of the political parties, given the intensity of the campaigns, to see the IEC and its individual commissioners as fair game in the campaign to win more votes.
But that would be to the detriment of our democracy in the long run as it would erode the public’s confidence in the body, ultimately causing citizens not to trust the outcomes of future elections.
If the democratic project is to survive and succeed, the credibility of the IEC has to be jealously guarded not just by its commissioners and staff, but also by all the political parties taking part in the upcoming elections.
Any criticism of the body should be fair and based on facts and not mere suspicions.