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Feedback from participants at the TCOE Leadership held in June 2011
The TCOE Leadership School was recently held in Port Elizabeth, and its key objectives to:

  • deepen understanding of the nature and extent of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality in South Africa;
  • explore the concepts of neo-liberalism and globalisation and its impact on the world and South Africa;
  • analyse the way in which food is produced, processed and distributed with a view to understanding the factors that enable or undermine food security/sovereignty; and
  • engage with the concept of food sovereignty and to explore lobbying and advocacy strategies aimed at changing the status quo.

Participants were representatives from Coastal Links (youth); Ilizwi Lamafama; Makhukhanye; Mawubuye Land Rights Forum; Mopani Farmers Union; Rural People’s Movement; Siyazakha; as well as staff members from CALUSA; Itireleng; Khanyisa; Masifunde, Zingisa and TCOE National Office.

After a brief introduction to the module and a discussion of the programme, participants divided into small groups to discuss the recent local government elections.  The following framework was provided to guide the discussion:

  • On the basis of your own experience and the information provided, discuss:
  • The key trends in the 2011 local government elections
  • The extent to which these trends were visible in your voting area
  • The implications of these trends (for the ruling party; for organizing, etc.)

A summary of the report backs showed the following:

Trends
The ANC and all smaller parties have lost support whilst the DA gained ground. Communities were not happy with the candidates that were chosen as councillors; the ANC’s candidate lists were manipulated; and there was a lot of corruption in the nomination of candidates. There was infighting and competition for positions amongst members of the ANC in all the provinces. It was a general sentiment amongst participants that the metropolitan areas were the main focus for all the political parties. It was argued by participants that the ruling party tried to block the independents and that a lot of intimidation was evident. The reason why many people stood as independent candidates, some viewed, was because citizens were dissatisfied with the ANC. Many small parties were also brought into being just before the elections, but almost all of them failed.
A general concern amongst the participants was the lack of interest in voting amongst the youth in some areas. In other areas there was a drop in voter turnout due to lack of interest and many people spoilt their ballot papers due to their dissatisfaction.  
There were many problems with the election process, especially with the special votes:   Scanners did not work and many people were stuck without transport. IEC staff members were also felt to be biased in many districts, and many participants argued that they tried to persuade people how to vote resulting in some IEC being fired.
Implications
The ruling party has lost a lot of support in this election. If it does not solve its internal problems and begin to deliver on its promises, it will continue to lose support. If this happens the DA will continue to gain ground and many more independents will win seats. Those who are disillusioned will not go and vote and this will be to the detriment of the ruling party.
There was a general perception amongst participants that people are uninformed politically.  They are politically excited but not politically conscious. It was argued that we should ensure that people are well-informed and we must build political consciousness.
As social movements, we should be aware of the dangers of being abused by political parties. We must be vigilant and guard against our movements being used to further the agenda of political parties. We need to develop an alternative agenda.
We should also ensure that communities are mobilised and united so that they can pressurise council to recall councillors who don’t perform. 
We have lots of work to do outside of the party political arena. We must develop alternatives to the current situation that we can mobilise people around.

Discussion
Why do you think so many people voted for the ANC, despite the dissatisfaction over candidate lists; despite the lack of delivery; despite the crackdown on protest action?
People are voting with their emotions. For many people the ANC is the party that led the liberation struggle. It is the party that brought about change. Seventeen years is not enough to break this pattern.
Those who were part of the liberation struggle, who still carry with them the memory of that struggle, will not desert the party that they were once prepared to die for. Those who did not participate however, or were too young, are prepared to change their voting pattern –they will vote for another party.
Some participants viewed that many who voted for the ANC are opportunists – they know that the ANC looks after its members.
Helen Zille made an interesting comment on the elections. She said that the tragedy of these elections was the infighting within COPE.  What do you think she meant?
The ANC lost heavily in the Western Cape, despite the fact that this was the province in which the UDF was launched and despite the fact that this province produced many struggle heroes and many activists laid down their lives in the struggle.  Why then were people not loyal to the ANC in this province?
It is interesting to note that one of the points in the DA’s manifesto was that the party would stop land invasions if they came into power. Yet, despite this, many shack dwellers who themselves invaded land, cast their votes in favour of the DA.
The road leading to 2014 will be closely contested and of interest to watch.