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Review of 2022 political events in South Africa

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Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

By Bheki Mngomezulu

As the year winds down, this is an opportune time for us as a nation to reflect on some of the key events that have characterised the year 2022 in the realm of politics with the view to draw lessons in preparation for the year ahead. While most of the events discussed below concern individual political parties, others transcend the political divide and affect the country as a whole. For that reason, the reflection should not be the prerogative of politicians alone. Agency in this regard cannot be outsourced.

As the governing party, the ANC has spent the better part of the year preparing for its national elective conference. Within this context, the party’s branches, regions and Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) have been holding elections and making pronouncements on who their preferred candidates are. Provincial conferences were also held to elect the new leadership. Some went smoothly while others experienced some legal challenges but eventually went ahead.

There was also change of provincial leadership in certain provinces to infuse new blood. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala resigned as Premier after losing the position of Provincial Chairperson to Siboniso Duma. Subsequently, the province saw Nomusa Dube- Ncube becoming the first female Premier since the advent of democracy in 1994. This was applauded by many people. In Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi took over from David Makhura.

The same happened with some members of the Tripartite Alliance. For example, the SACP saw Dr. Blade Nzimande relinquishing the position of Secretary General of the party to Solly Mapaila.

Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA) – SACP’s Solly Mapaila speaks during the party 6th National Policy Conference in Nasrec.

While all the developments that took place within the ANC were important – including losing a number of by-elections to the IFP, especially in KZN, it was the Phala Phala saga that overshadowed all these events. The saturation point of this incident was the announcement that the party’s president Cyril Ramaphosa was going to address the nation on 21 November 2022. This followed the submission of the Section 89 panel report headed by Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. The report made damning findings against Ramaphosa.

Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) – Retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo presents the Section 89 report to Parliament Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Two significant events took place around this issue. The first one was the last-minute cancellation of Ramaphosa’s address to the nation wherein it was confirmed that he had planned to resign as President of the country. Some of his comrades persuaded him not to resign and vowed to defend him to the bitter end. Indeed, this is what they did.

The second event was the parliamentary vote on 13 December 2022 to either adopt or reject the panel report. The results showed that 214 MPs voted against the adoption of the report while 148 voted for its adoption. Two MPs opted to abstain while others did not attend the session.

Of critical importance in this regard was the decision by four ANC MPs to defy the NEC’s decision that all ANC MPs must reject the report. The four voted for the adoption of the report.

Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) – Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

One name that dominated that day was that of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. This was due to the fact that she was the only Cabinet Minister to defy the NEC’s decision. The other three (Musebenzi Zwane, Supra Mahumapelo and Melvin Dirks) were ordinary Members. Tandi Mahambehlala voted “Yes” but later indicated that she wanted to vote “No” as per the party line. Attempts to reverse her decision was successfully challenged.

But the ANC was not the only party that had interesting moments. The DA saw one of its leaders in KZN Zwakele Mncwango leaving his position in the KZN Legislature.

Subsequently, he left the DA and joined ActionSA.

Picture: African News Agency (ANA) – In this file picture, former Democratic Alliance (DA) Caucus Leader in the eThekwini Municipality Zwakele Mncwango addresses a press conference about water campaign at their provincial head offices in Umgeni business Park, Durban.

Instabilities of certain municipalities across the country following the 2021 Local Government Election (LGE) also dominated the politics of 2022. Metropolitan municipalities in Gauteng and Nelson Mandela Bay experienced intermittent change of leadership as political parties changed allegiances. At the beginning of December, the EThekwini Metro saw a fallout between Philani Mavundla and the ANC. This resulted in his removal as Deputy Mayor – a move which might come back to haunt the ANC which was assisted by Mavundla to retain power in this metro.

The IFP is one party that has a lot to celebrate in 2022. After successfully retaining a number of municipalities in the 2021 LGE and taking a few more from the ANC, the IFP has won several by-elections in KZN. The most recent victory was in Ward 99 of EThekwini where the IFP recorded 4313 votes against the ANC’s 2530 votes. This summed up the IFP’s dominance in municipal elections.

An IFP supporter at the march in Johannesburg.

Another key development in 2022 was the Political Party Funding Act. This Act requires political parties to declare who their main funders are. Not all political parties have adhered to the set deadlines to submit their reports. What is important about this Act is that it has affected various political parties differently.

Those that relied on external sponsors were the hardest hit because they are now required to accept such donations (in cash and/or in kind) up to a specified amount. In the past, parties could receive money from as many sponsors as they could. The implementation of this Act means that they now have to activate their membership and encourage them to pay their membership fees.

What stands out from the events of 2022 is that politicians appear to have the order of things totally wrong. They put themselves first, their political parties second, and the electorate (or the country) last. This is evidenced in the manner in which they make decision and vote on certain matters of national importance.

The correct order should be the electorate (the country) first, political parties second and the individuals last. This order is confirmed by the fact that neither the individual politicians nor the various political parties can exist and thrive without the electorate and/or the country.

It is envisaged that all the various political parties will draw lessons from the developments that took place in 2022, do self-introspection and plan for the future based on how they performed in 2022.

Bheki Mngomezulu is Professor of Political Science and Deputy Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape.

This article was exclusively written for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.