With the ANC conceding defeat to the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape, the party says it will embark on an “activist-style” opposition over the next five years.
The ruling party suffered its worst-ever defeat in the Cape, garnering only 28.5% of the vote in the province.
At the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) provincial results centre in Cape Town, a victorious DA gathered in a celebratory mood amongst dejected opposition, as the final results were released.
“The electorate has said we should be an opposition. And we have to be a damn good opposition. And we can’t just be opposing just before an election, we’ve got to do it consistently,” says ANC provincial election head Ebrahim Rasool.
The former Western Cape premier says the party has had time to get used to working from opposition benches.
Since 2006, it has been in opposition in Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest metro. It lost the province as a whole in 2009 and has not governed since then.
The ANC has been criticised as being weak and ineffectual, and Rasool says this must change.
“It has to be an activist opposition. We’ve got to be tough in the legislature. In their faces. Question them like hell. But I think we also have to take the opposition out into communities where people need houses. We need to lead the protests and not leave that to populists.”
But there are positives for the ANC.
The DA has lost more than 100 000 votes in the Cape Town metro. And Rasool says the DA has also lost significant support in areas like Gatesville, Rylands, and the Bo-Kaap.
“On the current outcome, had this been a local government election, about five to eight municipalities would have been in danger for the DA. Some of them would have come to us, like Knysna, this would have had coalitions. So the signs are good for us going into 2021. But we must absorb the lessons for 2021.”
The DA is already planning it’s defence of Western Cape municipalities where it governs.
Provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela says the party is in perpetual election mode, and planning for the local government elections will start in earnest.
“Our focus as of tomorrow is on 2021. Our focus must be on servicing the people. We must be honest, we’ve done a lot. But there are areas where we have challenges,” Madikizela says.
Despite the DA’s 55% victory in the province, their overall vote count is down from 1 259 645 in 2014, to 1 123 447 in 2019.
This correlates with growth in votes for the Freedom Front Plus, and former Cape Town mayor and DA provincial leader Patricia De Lille’s Good Party in the Western Cape legislature.
“We must make a proper assessment about what happened to the DA nationally. At the moment we are all speculating why we lost support. We’re not even sure whether the growth of the Freedom Front Plus is because of the loss of our support,” Madikizela says.
Madikizela says the Western Cape is an example to the rest of the country for a peaceful transition of government between opposing political parties.
“The great thing about our democracy is the working relationship between political parties. During the campaign, even on election day, the kind of relationship between parties is a sign of maturity. And we must celebrate as a country. And the fact that power is able to change hands is a sign of maturity,” he says.