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.