Pretoria – The ANC’s biggest alliance partner Cosatu has warned the party about the “elections risk” it faces at the 2016 local government elections due to a continuing decline in voter turnout at the polls.
This is one of the frank assessments made by Cosatu in its discussion documents that will form the basis of debates at its upcoming national congress.
While the federation reaffirms its support for the ANC and its confidence that the ruling party can remain in power “in the medium-term”, it warns that the low voter turnout threatens its legitimacy.
The Cosatu warning about the dangers facing the ANC at the elections next year follows hot on the heels of similar admissions by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in his organisational report to the recent national general council of the ANC. Analysing the party’s performance in last year’s general elections, Mantashe warned that the party’s support could dip below the 60 percent mark.
Mantashe further warned that based on last year’s election outcomes, the party could have lost the four metros – Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane, Joburg and Ekurhuleni – if those were local government elections.
The federation has, however, refused to attribute the ANC’s declining support at the polls to the growth of opposition parties, describing them as not posing a threat to the ANC.
“It appears that there are an increasing number of eligible South African voters who do not cast their votes. However, it should be noted the ANC drop in votes is not the result of opposition parties gaining support, but a strong message to the ANC that the electorate is unhappy and the ANC’s next step should focus on its preparations for the upcoming local government elections to ensure victory in all provinces because 2016 poses a high elections risk if nothing is done,” Cosatu said.
Statistics used for the analysis show that voter turnout has declined significantly from 86 percent in 1994 to 72 percent in the 1999 elections.
It dropped further to 58 percent in 2004 and even though it slightly recovered to 60 percent when President Jacob Zuma was elected in 2009, last year’s national and provincial elections had a voter turnout of 57 percent. “The steady decline in electoral participation since 1994 may erode the legitimacy that is the lifeblood of democratic institutions and ultimately weaken the overall quality of South Africa’s democracy,” warns the federation.
Cosatu has also reaffirmed its belief in the relevance of the alliance, shortly after it smoked the peace pipe with former ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who came under fire from its leaders for insisting that the alliance was dead.
“Others have sought to assume that the alliance relations are based on sentiments and the unwillingness to disagree on the shape and nature of our development; this must be strongly refuted through programmes and strong working class based campaigns,” it noted.
It also raises concerns that some in government ignored policies influenced by Cosatu, and that its inputs to the ANC election manifesto were treated “as secondary”.
“We should make the ANC and all alliance partners understand that it is useless to participate in a joint process of drafting the manifesto if our proposals are to be treated as secondary. In some instances even when it is a government programme some in the government are allowed to ignore policy and programme without any consequences,” the document said.
Cosatu is set to hold its national congress next week, a crucial congress that it enters possibly at its weakest following internal battles that saw the expulsion of metalworkers union Numsa.
Numsa has abandoned its intention to appeal against its expulsion, paving the way for the newly-formed Liberated Metalworkers of SA to establish itself as Cosatu’s union in the metal sector.
The federation is expected to elect new leadership at the congress.
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