By Mbangwa Xaba

This year’s municipal elections, under COVID-19, is pregnant with an assortment of changes – political analysts and elections pundits have warned.

Getting the polls into full gear, political parties launched their manifestos last week. The scene was set by the DA, which – as usual – ignored the plight of the majority black poor and chest-thumped ‘success’ seen mostly as pro-elite and white disguised as service delivery.

The EFF did not shed any of its signature populist outlandish promises while the majority ANC had no choice but to concede publicly that it had failed.

Stringent Covid-19 restrictions were feared to mar the holding of free and fair municipal elections. Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke recommended that they be delayed until February next year. But analysts say this would have had little, if any, role in the decline of voter turnout.

Political analyst Dumisani Hlophe says the Constitutional Court was right to dismiss the IEC’s attempt to postpone the elections. He says Covid-19 will have little to do with voter turnout.

“This election happens in an environment of deep mistrust between the government and the people. If anything, Covid-19 has raised the assessment of people with regards to how little the government cares about the poor,” said Hlophe.


“It may have brought to the fore or crystalised how the government takes the needs of the poor for granted. The government’s response to the lockdown has worsened their conditions. Government is not trusted right now.”

Hlophe added that the converse is that the state does not trust its citizens.

“That explains why the government will send troops in the townships. It is a sign of its mistrust of the people and that mistrust is at the core of the ANC’s campaign. If you are a ruling party, this is the worst time to go to an election,” Hlophe added.

He advised that those coming into power will do well to ensure that the government focuses on the agenda of serving the people.

“There is no direct correlation between the election and the work of municipalities. Elections have become employment opportunities for some and that needs to change.”

Electoral expert Terry Tselane says the ANC will be the biggest loser in next month’s polls and that loss sets the tone for the 2024 national polls. He predicts that voter apathy and public distrust, which will undoubtedly affect all other political parties, will do its worst damage to a decade-old decline of the ANC. This makes coalition governments a permanent feature of our political landscape into the future.

“Political leaders and political parties should begin to work toward formalising coalitions. It is becoming clear that we will no longer have a single-party government and these loose arrangements of ‘vat en sit’ need to be structured into manageable agreements. There should be some agreements that ensure that political parties can be held accountable. This should also form part of the system and needs to be regulated along the same lines of the likes of CCMA’s or similar,” Tselane explained.

According to Tselane, South Africa could learn a lot from the Kenyan coalition arrangements. A decade ago, a broad-based pre-electoral alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition, won the national elections in Kenya, thus changing the face of contemporary electoral and government politics in that country.

Since the 2002 general elections Kenyan politicians have realised that political parties that are serious about winning a national election or referendum and forming a government have no option other than to make a broad-based electoral pact and form parliamentary and governmental coalitions.

The 2005 constitutional referendum, the 2007 general elections, the 2010 constitutional referendum and the 2013 general elections – all followed this pattern and were fought by major pre-electoral political party alliances. 

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