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Former ANC president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: MASI LOSI
Former ANC president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: MASI LOSI

The ANC’s historical electoral decline, in which the party’s support fell below 50% for the first time since full democracy in SA, represents an advancement of right-wing ideals in the country, says former president Thabo Mbeki.

“If nothing changes with regard to the conditions and factors which produced this outcome ... this certainly will lead to a strategic defeat of the progressive movement and a historic victory for the right wing,” Mbeki wrote in a letter to ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.

The letter, dated November 24, gives Mbeki’s view of the outcome of the November 1 municipal polls in which the ANC’s support showed a significant decline. The election also registered a low voter turnout, which affected the performances of the ANC and main opposition parties, with voters opting for smaller, identity-centred parties.

For the first time since the first democratic election in 1994, the ANC’s support fell below 50%, and there were also an historically high 66 hung councils — those with no outright majority party.

The ANC was dealt a body blow earlier this week when it lost three crucial councils in the economic hub of Gauteng, leaving it in control of only Emfuleni and Lesedi local municipalities in the Vaal and Merafong and Rand West municipalities on the West Rand.

The party was dogged by corruption allegations in the run-up to the elections and had to contend with a weak economy which has shed more than 1-million jobs. The party’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, also conceded that bouts of load-shedding, which were implemented by state-owned power utility Eskom in the week before election day, contributed to the ANC’s electoral decline.

Mbeki, along with the party’s former deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, played a key role in the ANC’s election campaign, with the former hosting campaign events for the governing party and the latter leading the party’s committee that compiled the final list of candidates.

Mbeki, who did not publicly campaign for the ANC under former president Jacob Zuma, endorsed the ANC’s manifesto ahead of the election.

To recover from the electoral losses, which some market watchers see as a precursor to a further decline in the 2024 national elections, Mbeki proposes that the ANC hasten its renewal and implement its manifesto where it governs. It should direct the government to produce the implementation plan for the economic reconstruction and development plan, Ramaphosa’s framework for turning around SA’s pandemic-hit economy.

“The results of the LGE [local government election] underline in the most emphatic manner the imperative to respect the people and, therefore, the need to honour the commitments we made in the 2019 and the 2021 election manifesto,” Mbeki said.



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