It’s Julius’s time

On September 16 2009, a column appeared in Bolander titled “The Julius Malema dilemma: our next president?”

In that piece, I speculated about Mr Malema’s presidential ambitions, concluding that it was entirely possible he could satisfy those ambitions if he played his cards right for the next 15 to 20 years.

Well, as things stand, he might not have to wait that long. The contradictions that have emerged in the recent polls seem to suggest that it is impossible to predict how today’s election will turn out, but if you ignore the noise and focus on the signal, it becomes clear.

The voting trajectory of the ANC will continue, in that it will lose support relative to its previous performance, from a high in 2004 of 69.69% to its most recent showing in 2014, of 62.15%.

Whether it gets 59% or 60% is academic. It will still dominate the National Assembly. The disastrous nine years of Jacob Zuma’s wrecking-ball presidency and the jaw-dropping reality of state capture notwithstanding, the ANC is still very much the flavour of the millenium
with the majority of the electorate.

The DA, if it is fortunate, will tread water, but unlike the ANC, it does not have a comfortable majority which can be eroded by political missteps, without threatening its dominance in key areas. It must retain the Western Cape, and it aspires to co-govern Gauteng, but its mishandling of the “De Lille Matter “and its own very public internal spats will, by comparison, cost it dearly at the polls today. If the DA polls between 18% and 20% today, it will be lucky.

The EFF, on the other hand, is set to be the poster child of the day, and for very good reasons. Rather than focus on bashing its opponents, it has tapped into the deep-seated anger of the poor and marginalised, largely youth cohort, most of whom are unemployed or unemployable, by promising jobs, a doubling of social grants, free houses for all, free land for all, free education for all, and the list goes on.

That it neglects to mention that the pitifully small tax base, coupled with our economic trajectory, could not sustain 10% of what it is promising, is academic: when you are poor, angry and without hope, you seize whatever gilded lifebelt you are offered. Ergo, the EFF is likely to poll between 10% and 12%, and that puts Mr Malema precisely where he wants to be.

But the EFF’s unrealistic and preposterous blandishments aside, it is ahead of the curve, precisely because of its clever positioning on our political spectrum, radically left of the
ANC, which it has cleverly displaced as the vanguard of the socialist national democratic revolution. Breitling socialists they may be, but the EFF cadres have successfully squeezed the ANC into our political centre, cheek-by-jowl with its arch enemy, the DA. And the centre will not hold.

Worldwide, political propositions at the extremes of the political spectrum are gaining traction, witnessed by the rise of right wing nationalist parties in 17 countries in the lead up to European elections, most notably Switzerland where the Swiss People’s Party recently polled 29%, the Freedom Party in Austria polled 26% (and is now in a power-sharing government), Hungary, where Fidesz and Jobbik polled 49% and 19% respectively, and Spain, where Vox polled 10%.

On the left, the lunacy of Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution, perpetuated by his successor, Nicolas Maduro, has decimated Venezuela, and blatant electoral fraud and election violence notwithstanding, Robert Mugabe’s socialist experiment in Zimbabwe endured for 32 years.

Populism, fueled by virulent identity politics, whether on the left or the right, with its attendant beguiling attraction, is on the rise, and it will continue to eat away at the disillusioned majority which has traditionally supported the political centre, in our politics, the ANC and the DA.

The DA has a great deal more to lose than the ANC if it loses ground relative to its 2014 election result, particularly in the Western Cape and the other province where it craves to be in government – Gauteng.

It’s self-defeating campaign against voting for small parties may well come back to haunt it, if it must seek coalition partners in either of these provinces after today, but at national level, if things go really badly for the ANC, it will be the EFF, specifically, Mr Malema, who will be kingmaker.

In the EFF’s latest campaign offering, Mr Malema has shed his trademark red overalls. He wears a suit which can only be described as presidential. He is seated behind an imposing desk, and in the background, shelves of gold-leafed leather-bound volumes. If not a president-in-waiting, then perhaps a deputy-president-in-waiting?

Spend your vote wisely today.