Opinion: Inequality Between Rich And Poor SA Blacks Could Change Voting Patterns

Written by Staff

From IndependentOnline. Story by William Gumede, chairman of the Democracy Works Foundation and author of “Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times.”

The economic pain that many ordinary black South Africans are experiencing, coupled with the increasingly ineffective public services, and the rising inequality between rich and poor blacks, is now fracturing the apartheid-era we-are-all-in-it-together black fellowship.

There is a rising perception that key ANC political leaders in charge are uncaring, dismissive and arrogant of the struggles of their poor black brothers, sisters and cousins while at the same time living a nauseatingly bling lifestyle.

The emotional bond that held the majority of black people to the ANC is now fracturing as ordinary people are experiencing economic hardship painfully, while others, mostly those highly connected to the ANC leadership, are perceived to be thriving.

The introduction of key policies, which are not only perceived as “anti-poor” but are increasingly seen to be pushed through in an arrogant, high-handed and dismissive manner, such as e-tolls, is further alienating the ANC from its traditional base.

In many of these policies, the implementers are often exempted from their impact because of their state positions, and some benefit handsomely from the policies themselves.

This is further increasing the social distance between ordinary black people and the ANC.

Clearly, there is a rising perception that black people in political and business leadership who are doing well have little understanding of the harsh realities of their poorer cousins.

The ANC breakaways – whether they were politically effective or not – from the Congress of the People (Cope) to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have made it increasingly socially and politically “acceptable” for many black people not to show allegiance to the ANC.

Young black people who have been unemployed for extended periods are increasingly unable to identify with the ANC.

…..More privileged, educated and socially connected black youth are unlikely to embrace the ANC, and likely to find the seemingly “modern,” sleek, and forward-looking Mmusi Maimane and the Democratic Alliance more appealing than the apparently backward-looking, old-style-in-appearance-and-language and dour ANC of Jacob Zuma and Gwede Mantashe.

Many of the black middle class, given that it is mostly a first-generation one, who started their life without the social capital of inherited property, generational education and finance, and who mostly used debt to acquire their possessions, are hugely vulnerable.

They are feeling the poor public services deeply.

They are paying for the trappings of the middle class – home mortgages, rates and utilities and cars – while at the same time paying for private health, education and security because of poor public services.

The black middle class is one group that would vote tactically for the DA, although they may not agree with the party’s policies, its “feel” and the people there.

Given their economic struggles at the moment – and the increasingly lack of identification with the excesses of the ANC leadership – many of them may vote for the DA.

However, the black middle class remains tiny – and cannot win a party a national election.

Read more at IndependentOnline.