Malaika Wa Azania
Malaika Wa Azania

Why the poor vote for the ANC and will do so for a long time

The question of why the poor who are always complaining about the ANC continue to vote for the organisation has always preoccupied my mind. I could never really comprehend how it is possible for multitudes of people who are being abused by the ruling party would vote it into power. I tried to rationalise it by reflecting on the writings of philosophers the likes Frantz Fanon, whose view is that colonised masses need to undergo a decolonisation process that will conscientise them. I surmised that perhaps the reason for this strange dilemma is that our people have been subjected to so much abuse in the hands of the apartheid regime that they would rather stick to a black majority party than take their votes to the DA. This logic is inadequate. It does not answer why then if our people want a better devil than a white majority party, do they not locate themselves in the modern Black Consciousness Movement or the pan-Africanist bloc, in organisations such as the PAC, Azapo, The Socialist Party of Azania or the Black People’s Convention. It only makes sense that if our people are still suffering from the trauma of white majority rule and are simultaneously resentful of the ANC, they should locate themselves in organisations that have a pro-black ideology.

I have heard various theories on why our people, who allegedly hate the ANC, are not joining Black Conscious organisations. Some argue that the ANC, as a ruling party in our democratic government, has made use of state resources to preserve its legacy through projecting itself as the only national liberation movement. As a result of this, it is argued, other organisations that played a critical role in the liberation struggle, the PAC and Azapo in particular, have been greatly marginalised and thrown into the dustbin of history. Thus, few people actually know about the role played by Apla and Azanla (armed wings of the mentioned organisations, respectively) and are inclined to believe that eternal gratitude is owed to the MK/ANC alone. This argument feeds into another which says that our people vote for the ANC out of blind loyalty and emotions.

Another argument is that having only recently come out of a period of violence and heightened political activity, our country now finds itself in a lull, in a post-independence era where fatigue has set in. This fatigue, it is argued, has induced a state of defeatism in our people, such that even as they feel the impact of a decayed ANC, they are too tired to fight, too drained to employ energies to the overthrow of yet another order.

All these arguments have a ring of truth in them and must not be dismissed. However, my problem with them is that they seek to project the masses of our people as incapable of thinking. Most of the people who pose such arguments are the learned, the few who owe their ability to analyse to having accessed institutions of higher learning. These are arguments of the largely sophisticated middle class. They assume a very patronising posture by arrogating a parental role to the middle class. In this process, the capacity of the poor to reason is dismissed and the poor are thus treated as infants, incapable of being role players of their own liberation. And the poor might not be as enlightened as some of us believe we are, but they are certainly not stupid. These arguments also fail to look into an important possibility (perhaps out of fear) that our people vote for the ANC because despite its embodiment of problematic elements, they actually believe in it and see it as the only organisation that has the ability to liberate them from clutches of poverty, unemployment and structural inequalities.

The reality of the situation is that none of the existing political organisations in our country inspire any confidence. Alternatives to the ANC are all regressive, if not in fact worse than the ANC itself. On the one hand you have a DA that is openly neo-liberal, with market fundamentalist policies that are seriously reactionary. On the other hand you have a PAC where things have fallen apart to a point where the centre no longer holds and an Azapo that is a convergence point of intellectuals who are out of touch with reality, confined to (dogmatic) theory. Then there is the newborn babies such as AgangSA and EFF, the former being a photocopy of the DA but with a black face, and the latter not having yet proven itself enough to be considered genuinely revolutionary outside the militant posture it has assumed. Then there is Cope, which came with a bang but is now a caricature of its former self, tribalist organisations such as the Minority Front and the IFP, right-wing ones such as FF+ and narrow-minded ones such as DP. Therefore it’s not very difficult to understand why the poor choose to stick to an ANC that has, in spite of its weaknesses, stood the test of time.

ANC policies are not the best, but the truth is, the poor are not interested in ideology in the same way as the learned are. They don’t care if the National Development Plan is liberal. They don’t care about President Jacob Zuma’s friends landing at a national key point. They are too busy fighting real battles for survival. The poor just want mere basics, and the ANC gives them that, it will have their votes. For a rural family that was without electricity during the apartheid era, for a young mother getting a meagre R260 a month child support grant, for a poor student getting a National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa loan, the ANC is everything. These are the people who vote for the ANC, who will defend it against anything. I’m not an ANC member, but the truth is, the current opposition is not convincing. Let’s see what EFF has in store for us. It has potential.

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  • The weakness of the ANC
  • Part 6 of 6: Speeches
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    • Mutahi Wachira

      Interesting insights, although your continued reference to ‘our people’ is more distracting than inspiring in anyway. I didn’t get your point about why poor people don’t vote for the DA. You made this throw-away remark about it being neo-liberal with some market policies you disagree with and then left it there. They being the major opposition party, I would think they deserve at least a paragraph.

      As for your closing comment on the EFF – I seriously don’t get it. Every now and then I hear people talking about them as if they have something serious to contribute but I don’t know what it is at all. I’m not indoctrinated – I just genuinely see nothing but a bunch of jokers in red berets.

    • mundundu

      the anc is an abusive, impotent husband who still feeds the kids. just as many women won’t leave an abusive husband because she needs to make sure her kids will eat, or won’t leave an impotent one [but may flirt with the neighbour] for the same reasons, that “making sure the kids are fed” supersedes all, even if it’s not that much… because not that much, as you rightly point out, is a vast improvement over nothing at all.

      it’s really interesting to see many people who have cushy jobs, in part due to being able to finance studies via nsfas, take potshots at the anc and talk about tax avoidance due to the corruption. i just have to shake my head at that.

    • Car Guard

      I think you are right that the poor are not stupid, but they are desperate. And you are correct that ‘The poor just want mere basics, and as the ANC gives them that, it will have their votes.’ However, what is more concerning is the strategy of the ANC towards the poor. As the other Mr Mbeki said in Architects of Poverty, the principles of keeping votes is firstly to deny people education, then to deny them real work or the freedom to work, and then finally to keep them dependent on the state. Which is done via social grants. The problem in a sense is that the ANC relies on continuing poverty for its votes. Thus is has no real reason to improve the lives of the poor , or to enable the poor to become middle class through their own efforts. This may be the greatest irony, in that poor people are in a sense, through no fault of their own, voting for the perpetuation of their own povery.

    • Car Guard

      “They don’t care if the National Development Plan is liberal. They don’t care about President Jacob Zuma’s friends landing at a national key point. They are too busy fighting real battles for survival.” You are certainly right with this. The ANC is regarded as a lotto ticket, with massive riches through corruption for a tiny few, for the price of protecting the corrupt at the top, but this may still be seen as better than no hope at all. The problem is that ultimately not caring about principles, about the abuse of power by abusive leaders, is a tragedy, but one that the poor can’t be blamed for. If enough people were willing to stand against rotten leadership on a matter of principle, one may find that the matters of survival would be resolved more easily by a population no longer dependent on a vampire state.

    • Thulo

      You my sister have a serious problem with the middle class and I do not understand why. I knew you would not complete your artticle without having a go at them. What exactly is your problem with middle class?

    • GrahamJ

      I love the ANC and will vote for them as long as I can bribe a traffic cop to let me off from just about any offence. I also love the useless civil service that lets me get anything I need with a buck or two here or there.
      I am especially entertained by riots and protests on the news and the excuses given by politicians for the breakdown of just about anything.
      And Jacob Zuma is a gem. Where else would you get that kind of bang-per-buck publicity on the world’s stage?
      Yep, they get MY vote.

    • Lehlohonolo

      Mr. Zuma is not doing a great job, scratch that a good job but he is extremelly best at disposing of his alleged enemies, the fact that he has surrounded himself with a bunch of law abiding, scratch that Zuma abiding people, will only serve to expose his shortcomings. But prior to Mr. Zuma and Malema the ANC had its problems like any other party, their problems are magnified because their in the poll position if you may. It is very easy to think you can do a better job, only to be upstaged as well politics are a career now with the winner takes all mentality. It takes only one term from a rotten potato to write off a party. As for the DA personal opinion its an insult to the African people as far as im concerned, but Ms. Zille is taking a behind the scenes approach but the more Africans at the forefront of her party just reminds me she is there pulling the strings the puppet master. EFF, COPE, their births are a case of spilled milk between employer and employee, to their detriment including AGANG they based their campaigns around open secrets of the ANC, so did Ms. Zille I guess one lesson can be learned for a lifetime.

    • Momma Cyndi

      The difference in your writing now and what it was a year or so ago is quite astounding.

      ANC and DA are mirror images of each other. Their manifestos are so similar that it is difficult to separate them. The DA works only on the idea that they will implement the manifesto.

      EFF and Agang are possibly the most interesting thing that has happened in RSA politics since 1994. Agang doesn’t seem to have much in the line of a mandate (or a clue) yet but they are at least going in a different direction. EFF are crazy as a box of spiders but, they too, have a different idea of how to do things.

      A different idea would be welcome about now! What we have been doing for the last 19 years is not working – or at least, not working well enough

    • mmmm

      quite a good article. it seems as if you too are desperate to believe in a silver bullet – EEF. i agree that there is not much out there to inspire. need a mahatma gandhi type party with humble leaders who are non materialistic.

    • Mark

      @Malaika nowhere in this rant have you unpacked any of your points, merely touched on them in the assumption that people will take it as fact. This article is so open ended and vague that it is possible that you might mean the DA is neo-liberal or only white people are neo-liberal while forgetting that its an economic policy and not a racially based doctrine.

      All you have done is dress up the very simple statement of “I think black people dont vote for apparently white parties because they fear a return to apartheid” in nonsense.

      The bottom line is that if the ANC stopped constantly referencing the need to fight against white people and an oppresive regime that still somehow exists, they would lose the next election. This is primarily because without the smokescreen of a lingering evil, people would see the ANC for who they really are and abandon them.

      I double dare the ANC to stop referencing apartheid and approach politics and governance from a purely service delivery perspective. Lets see how far they get…..

    • Jamie

      You’re are right about the fact that poor people in South Africa may continue to vote for the ANC. The evidence is that our fellow brethren in Zimbabwe are still voting for ZANUPF even though they have completely recked their economy.

      One would hope that poor South Africans would see beyond skin colour, and vote for the party that is likely to be improve their prospects the most. In the current climate, its hard to believe that anyone should vote for the ANC when employment levels are skyrocketing, state infrastructure is falling part, and corruption is rife.

    • chris

      Perhaps it is for the same reason that the Americans elected George W Bush for a second term: to show the disenfranchised rest of the world/ SA minorities, begging you to make a sensible choice, the big finger. And because not doing so would be an admission that you were wrong all along.

    • lesego

      I said it and I will say it once more ANC wont educate the black man the liberation movement is not in the business of education instead illiteracy and poverty is what keeps the ANC going cause the liberation movement hates “clever blacks” who can think beyond social grants and food parcels.Our black people lacks black conciousness even the so-called clever ones,the enemy of the black man is a corrupt ANC member and the white monopoly capitalist who sees the black man as a mere labourer so “black man you are on your own”

    • Concerned

      @Mundundu, no the ANC does not feed the kids (the poor). It feeds its elite and its cadres. The paxpayers do the paying. Fundamental difference, and one the ANC doesn’t want the public to realise.

      Once you have finished shaking your head, try to thing what South Africa needs: Quality education (not the ANC and SADTU!), a culture of self-advancement (not what COSATU and the SACP want, or what the ANC does!), increased investor opportunities (not what the ANC, COSATU or the SACP ensure), serious efforts about crime (which JZ783 and so many in government, the public departments and especially so many in the police would hate) and good governance (which the ANC has no clue about!).

      Once you open your eyes and look at the facts everyone would vote for the DA; only those who commit forever to be entitled hang on for scraps supposedly from the ANC! The apartheid, collective punishment, BEE enrichment of the elite and the inevitably misapplied affirmative action are killing the future for our country and all its people!

    • Concerned

      Malaika Wa Azania, if you think the EFF has potential you really have no idea at all. So sad, so sorry!

    • Lesotho

      Nice dicussion and i do believe with good guidence and comitment EFF might liberate our people out of poverty, but only if they stick to the their policies. more especially eradication of corruption and tender system. More black people in this country are not poor because the country does not have money but because of corruption that has become a norm and most of now ANC leadership see nothing wrong with that, instead of helping black communities to get out of poverty. For example if SA loose 300billion on corruption and we only need 260billion for all South Africans to go to Universities for free no matter black or white and we say there is nothing wrong there.

    • Nyiko Mabunda

      Many your ‘ideas’ are nothing new. The reasons the poor continue to vote for the ANC remain obscure and not clear cut as many of the learned (which I take you as part of) would want us to believe. It is interesting that, despite these postulations, none of the writers (at least those that I have read), you included Malaika, have found it necessary to engage with these so-called poor rural folks, to find out what they think & why they vote ANC? Don’t we know where they are? Can’t they speak? And as you correctly put it, can’t they think for themselves so much that we have to postulate on their thinking when they are here with us?

      Cabral correctly pointed out as early as 1965 that we are no longer fighting for ideas (ideology) but for material goods, to live better than yesterday & in a predictable, peaceful society. As it stands now, & as you correctly point out, there is no political establishment in the country that can beat the ANC on providing for these ‘basic’ of needs.

      It is easy to recognise the ‘failures’ of the ANC government in terms of land reform, economic transformation, the failing education system etc. It is also very easy to recognise the failures in implementing great ideas found in ANC policies. These are located in the blatant consumerisms as espoused by the likes of Yengeni and the secret yearning for this lifestyle by the poor.

      We need a battles of ideas, not votes for empty promises & opposition parties interested in joining the…

    • Tofolux

      @Malaika, the topic you raise is one that Fanon has interrogated at length and this only to put the debate with honest and tested info. I think to take this idea, one must either reject the notion or one must build on it. I would do the latter simply because conditions change. In understanding the SA context, I venture to say that you will get very little from the usual suspects, see insults above. In fact, amongst all the hurling of insults, these very people forget that it is because of the ANC that they enjoy conditions so priviledged and so unjust that I guess in hurling these insults (obviously conditioned prejudice) they somehw seek to replace guilt with hate(yip nothin has changed). That aside, why is it that we cannot ”think” outside the box when it comes to this type of interrogation and how is it that we continue to reach these extremely narrow conclusions? Clearly Fanon was a progressive, dynamic, forward, revolutionary etc etc thinker who had a great effect on the likes of Biko etc who turned out to be revolutionaries in their own right. Hence Malaika, who is the enemy? Who or what is the major challenge to the developmental goals of SA as a nation and a country. Until you are able to identify that answer, rationally, then the conditions are set to have an honest engagement. No revolutionary thinker has ever been accused of misleading ppl thru writing and I would expect frm others to use this eg in order for their knowledge to stand the test of time.

    • Stephen

      “And the poor might not be as enlightened as some of us believe we are, but they are certainly not stupid.” The ANC have been in power nearly 20 years, two thirds of a generation. After all this time, being worse off than under apartheid by almost every societal measure affecting personal welfare, and still voting for the ANC regime, well that’s just not too clever, is it?

      To make the assertion that all the poor want are “the mere basics”, is just plain cruel. They are human beings just like the privledged are. They deserve more. I would be bl**dy annoyed to still be economically supressed after twenty years of liberation.

    • Skerminkel

      I am also interested in the answer to the question you raised, but then:

      “I have heard various theories on why our people…”

      “Most of the people who pose such arguments are the learned, the few who owe their ability to analyse to having accessed institutions of higher learning. These are arguments of the largely sophisticated middle class. They assume a very patronising posture …”

      So, you have theories in your head and did some reading and then criticize the middle class for coming up with theories and publishing it. Is that not exactly what you are doing? I have not read once that you actually asked a poor person why they vote for the ANC. Therefore, dear Ms Pot, please meet Mr Kettle.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Tofolux, the ANC didn’t liberated SA like the big lie they have been telling everyone. Pac played a major role in this country fight against apartheid and the ANC receives the fame. The problem with SA is the black middle class is very small and hardly exist at all. The majority of the black population all live in poverty and their lives are controlled by the ANC. In SA fifty percent of the people are living on FGs and most of these people are living in government built homes with electricity. SA needs economic growth to create wealth in this country and the only way to achieve this is by investments. However, who in their right mind will make investment in SA with the widespread corruption in this country and their backward labor laws? Also, the people living on the rural areas of SA the people are living on tribal land and the chiefs have control over them. The ANC has controlled over the tribal chiefs because they are given money every year. These people will always vote ANC out of fear for their well being.

    • Heinrich

      Most guys, especially Car Guard, said it all for me.

      The long road to freedom stretches ahead …over the horizon.

      It is not a road which is destined to be travelled by the ANC. The only road they know, is the road to riches for themselves, and the road to poverty for South Africans.

    • Call for Honesty

      Sterling Ferguson #

      Though we often disagree, I find myself largely in agreement with you on this subject. To his I would add two thoughts:

      Democracy is at best a flawed system – though better than the alternatives.
      Democracy is at worst a disaster – no different from the alternatives.

      The extent to which people are ignorant and naive is directly related to the failure of democracy – a more successful democracy follows when people are able to make intelligent choices from enough information which is often not the case.

    • Karney

      The poor get what they deserve then, if they continue voting for a corrupt, morally bankrupt party. The skilled and well off( employers and taxpayers) will eventually leave, as the country crumbles. The poor will be left with the consequences of their support of this rotten party.

    • Daeghran

      This passage posted by Carguard sums the situation up perfectly…hits the nail squarely on the head!

      “…the principles of keeping votes is firstly to deny people education, then to deny them real work or the freedom to work, and then finally to keep them dependent on the state. Which is done via social grants. The problem in a sense is that the ANC relies on continuing poverty for its votes. Thus is has no real reason to improve the lives of the poor , or to enable the poor to become middle class through their own efforts. This may be the greatest irony, in that poor people are in a sense, through no fault of their own, voting for the perpetuation of their own poverty.”

    • Zeph

      It is rather simple. Just as many whites only knew Apartheid they continued to vote for it even though they knew it was wrong. It is what they knew; change was the unknown only the brave did not fear it. Rather the devil you know and all that…

      It is with the above I would also like to correct a perceived perception that I assume you have: not all whites were evil because they voted for Apartheid but were rather too cowardly to change (I assume you will be happy with me saying cowardly as opposed to ‘not brave enough’). It is another presumption here but I would say that as the older generation started to fade Apartheid started to weaken and the white youth were more informed (global news/travel/internet etc.) and, by their nature of being young, brave.

      You see, it is human nature, and we are all subject to it (psychopaths excluded). I hope you will not find this too disturbing that we are, after all, very much alike.

      Please do not take what I say above as trivialising Apartheid…I am just pointing out a flaw in the human condition.

    • Sourmango

      You must also entertain the possibility that the first inclination of the middle class is correct… that the poor are truly ignorant, fooled by promises of a free house and the potential return of Apartheid (surveys show this to be the case). There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that the ANC hand out KFC and free t- shirts at rallies, and the opposition recently complained of them using food handouts to win support in the political battle for Tlokwe… so it would seem that they believe our people are that stupid.

    • Mkholo

      The only thing Malaika said is that EFF is Africans’ only option in South Africa.
      People we consider middle-class in SA die, and leave no means of production behind. People should talk about things they know.
      Black has nothing to do with color( it’s economics).
      Thought so!

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Called for Honesty, it has been said that democracy works well when there is a large informed middle class. In SA the majority of the blacks in SA are very poor and only care about living from day to day. The government was setup for the poor masses not to have a voice in the government and these people are taking their problems to the Sangomas for help. SA hasn’t created a class of black entrepreneurs, bankers, profession people to fight for their interest like other people around the world. The idea of BEE was a good idea, but it should have been used at the grassroots level to help the masses to go up the ladder. However, BEE is used to help the elite in the ANC to move up the ladder without sweating.

    • david saks

      Very sound, convincing analysis of the situation! My question is why mainly black-supported opposition parties like COPE fail so badly to establish themselves, sometimes after quite an encouraging start. EFF is certainly not going to break the mould. My prediction is three seats, followed by rapid implosion. Agang will just take away white liberal votes from the DA. Another big ANC victory in the offing….

    • Sipho

      It’s are amazing how the so-called educated people deliberately miss the point every time they speculate about the majority of voters’ “love-hate” relationship with the ANC. If truth be told the majority of voters interact more with employers who happened to be aligned to the main opposition. I hate to say the nature of this interaction doesn’t endear the main opposition to the majority of voters, by association of course. The majority of voters work in private companies, they’re aware of the source of their poverty and possible solutions. They can locate Zuma’s role in their misery which is mostly unreliable service delivery by local authorities, but household poverty is seldom connected with Jacob Zuma but with employers.

    • Paul Whelan

      I think this is a good article, though I would emphasize much more the power of simple loyalty in deciding the way people vote (and remember loyalty here includes what your parents and friends have in terms of loyalty). Loyalties are what we all have and they are very slow to change. Soccer fans go on supporting their club, though it is never going to be the ‘best choice’.

      Close behind loyalty, or part of it, is self-interest. People don’t have to be educated, or even very ‘clever’, to know what’s good for them. Only stupid people can’t understand that. The majority vote for the ANC for many reasons, but also because they know that no other party could do a better or even as good a job at present.

      Here’s some more on this, if anyone’s still reading:

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Sipho, the majority of the voters in SA have never had a job so, what are you saying?

    • Sipho

      Sterling Ferguson # I hope you’re not serious but if you are, I give up on you.

    • Baz

      We are almost 20 years down the road with very little done for the improverished average voter. If the ‘poor vote’ continues to vote for ANC, they have themselves to blame. Let’s hope with coming elections in 2014, they will swing to voting for a party that will DELIVER all basic needs, create job oppotunities in a bleak reccessive economy and address all disputes in the areas of education, sort out the bloody strikes fiascos that cripple our sluggish economy. DO it with construtive agendas and get things going and cut out all the past excuses for whatever reason. The longer we stall the more frustrated they will become.

    • Sipho

      Baz # – the majority of employed people are not employed by the state, in fact most state employees do far better financially than those in the private sector. Unless you define poverty as lack of reliable municipal services you’d make sense in apportioning the blame about poverty on government. The truth, generally people have more touch points with the private sector than they have with the government, and the general behaviour of the private sector make people gravitate towards the government which at least make the right noise about their plight.

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    • Kgositsile Mokgosi

      It depends on your vision for ‘your’ people. To some of us apartheid was a constriction of the development of African people. Liberation meant doors opening up for such development to take place on a wide scale. This would reflect in the number of educated people coming out, number of innovative products being produced, companies being built, knowledge production in own universities through research, perhaps the general capacity to reason analyse by ordinary Africans. It is not really about them being fed, housed in collapsing structures dubbed RDP houses in environments without schools or recreation facilities. Afterall, animals would be said to be well taken of if fed and ‘housed’ without any expectation of solid out put intellectually innovatively from them

    • Peter

      It does not take much to realise that a government buys votes with largess. Free handouts of food, money, education, housing, employment…. all contribute to a nation of dependants who must rely on a productive minority.

      Who bites the hand that feeds it? As for the ANC doing a good job, nothing could be further from the truth. A good job would be making the people self-sufficient and self-supporting a situation that leads to people better education, more questioning and learning to think for themselves, seeing the rubbish and government propaganda they are lead to believe.

      The very fact the ANC insists on being called “the ruling party” is an excellent indication of the aims and ambitions of the ANC. It is not the betterment of the people it is the betterment of the ANC.

      Smelling the coffee is not that difficult.

    • manzoor ahmad

      to anc and wll not nt to shft maybe d a