Poll lessons from SA

Political analysts believe the trends observed in last week's national election in South Africa will not necessarily be reflected in Namibia.

13 May 2019 | Politics

Experts believe the gains made by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), albeit as an underdog, in last week's election in neighbouring South Africa will not necessarily spill over to Namibia where opposition parties are “apologists” and slow to present alternatives to the ruling party.

Experts also believe that the ruling Swapo Party is not immune to plummeting support but pointed out that this will not necessarily translate into victories for local political opposition parties.

The biggest lesson for Namibia they believe is spoilt ballots, and voter stay-aways, especially in the younger generations.

The EFF, which came third in the elections, almost doubled its votes moving up from slightly over 6% in 2014 to 10 % this year.

Political commentator Charles Mubita believes this is a significant achievement given the fact that it is still a new party.

“They capitalised mostly on the failure of the African National Congress (ANC) to deliver and used the Freedom Charter to unseat the ANC, but the EFF failed to really mobilise the students, the universities and the unemployed young people,” he believes.

Mubita cautioned political parties in Namibia not to take voters for granted and to reach out to them to ensure they register and vote.

“And also if we look at the spoilt ballot and the stay-away vote. If you tally some of those ballots you see they qualify for more seats than what some opposition parties got. We need to learn from there and encourage people that it is their democratic right to elect those they want to choose,” he said.

Social commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah, believes that President Cyril Ramaphosa's frank talk about corruption has been his party's saving grace.

He also argues that another factor that contributed to the vibrancy and effectiveness of political campaigning in SA was the presence of a strong civil society.

“Unfortunately here in our country, civil society is very weak. We should invest our energies and efforts into civil society; it will be very good for our democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile political commentator Henning Melber believes that the South African election results did not differ too much and are 'business as usual'.

He however pointed out that the land question did not feature during the election campaign as prominently as earlier on and that more important issues raised including unemployment and poverty, as well as crime and security.

“This suggests that while land is important, there are other factors which related more closely to the daily life of ordinary citizens especially in the urban centres.

“The EFF did not get as many votes as some had expected, which also shows that the land issue and the racial divide as a priority in its policy agenda did not convince a significant part of the electorate to give them their vote,” said Melber.

He added that it shows that voters generally are more interested in overall stability than in radical populist rhetoric and militant activities, which polarise and radicalise. Another issue Melber pointed out is the liberation gospel and heroic narrative of the struggle generation, which is on a slow decline.

Melber cautioned that while the older generations are remaining largely loyal to the former liberation movement, the majority of voters are now in an age group which does not relate any longer to the struggle days. Instead they measure governance not by a historical achievement claimed to be the sole merit of one party, but by performance of those in government.

“Like Namibia, South Africa is among the countries with the highest inequalities in the world, with unemployment of more than half of the younger generation. So why should they vote for a government which has not brought them any measurable improvement (except for the privileged in the shadows of the new elite)? Rather, they use their civil liberties (which one cannot eat) to articulate protest by not registering as voter or not voting after registration.”

JEMIMA BEUKES

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