Home News ‘The ANC has been humiliated’: One couple’s vote explains why

‘The ANC has been humiliated’: One couple’s vote explains why


A chime rang on television, announcing a change in the results counted so far. The Matifuha family celebrated the latest result at their home in northern Johannesburg: the ANC had won just 41 percent of the vote, according to a majority of the ballots counted.

“Okay!” said Buller Matifuha, pointing at the TV screen.

“Very good,” echoed her husband Khathu Mathivha.

“It should continue to go down, they are so arrogant,” Ms Matifuha said.

On Friday night, as South Africa neared winter, the couple sat in front of a cozy fire and watched news coverage of what was shaping up to be a watershed election. For the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, the party once led by Nelson Mandela failed to win an outright majority in a national election.

While the African National Congress (ANC) still leads in the May 29 election, the latest results are widely seen as a political defeat and a rebuke from voters like Mathivhas, who are angry at the only party they have known since the end of apartheid. In the last election in 2019, the ANC won 57% of the vote. In this election, its support fell to 41%, causing the party to lose its majority in parliament, which elects the country’s president. Now, it will have to work with smaller opposition parties, like those that Mathivhas voted for, instead of the ANC.

Buller and Katu Matifuha went against family tradition and their own previous votes and decided not to vote for the ANC, a party they called “arrogant” and corrupt. Ms. Matifuha, 34, and Mr. Matifuha, 36, are the largest group of registered voters in South Africa. South Africans aged 30 to 39 make up nearly a quarter of registered voters, while slightly older voters aged 40 to 49 make up more than a fifth.

South Africans born after the end of apartheid in 1994 have the lowest number of voter registrations, while those who lived through the worst of apartheid are aging. Conversely, the generation that experienced the prosperity and economic growth of post-apartheid South Africa, and the subsequent decline and frustration, is soured on the ANC.

“Maybe they had a plan to fight apartheid, but they didn’t have an economic plan,” Ms. Matifuha said.

The couple live in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous and affluent province, where urban black voters are frustrated with the ANC government’s failure to provide even basic services. The Mativs work in banking and technology and live on a leafy street in Johannesburg, a once-white suburb.

During the last election, Madifha’s mother, a doctor, convinced them to give the ANC another try. As a black South African coming of age during apartheid, Madifha’s mother was only allowed to attend two medical schools. Now, her son and his wife can choose the best medical schools in South Africa. The couple voted for the ANC in 2019, but now, as Buller and Katu Madifha consider their 3-year-old son’s future, they say they can’t support the ANC.

Ms Mathivha’s father worked as a security guard, but he made sure his daughter attended a well-resourced, former white public school in Cape Town. Mr Mathivha’s family moved from Soweto to the affluent north, where he attended a similar school. Now they have lost faith in public schools and are paying for private schooling for their son. It will be an extra expense at a time of soaring inflation and constant power outages.

The power outages not only make life more expensive, but also more dangerous. At night, their street is dark and deserted because the street lights have not been on for months. Their home is close to shopping malls and shops, but the commercial area has become a no-go zone due to rampant crime. In 2020, robbers broke into the Mathivhas’ home and looted everything. Public safety was their top concern when they voted last week.

“Crime is a big thing for us,” Ms. Matifuha said.

They chose the Patriotic Alliance, a party founded about a decade ago by a former criminal-turned-businessman who promised to be tough on crime. Its leader, Gayton McKenzie, has called for the reinstatement of the death penalty for serious crimes.

Ms. Matifuha was also impressed by the year Mr. McKenzie served as mayor of a rural area in the Western Cape province of South Africa. She noted that Mr. McKenzie worked hard to bring jobs to the town, improve infrastructure, and most importantly, he did not take a salary. This made a deep impression on Ms. Matifuha, who drove through the area as a child and remembered the abject poverty she saw at the time.

Watching the election results this week, she was dismayed that the poor Eastern Cape province where her parents grew up still chose to vote for the ANC.

“I think their fear of racism and segregation is much greater than their fear of poverty,” she said.

In the lower-level elections, Mr. Matifuha voted for the Democratic Alliance, the white-led party and the second-largest party.

“If the ANC would address basic issues like infrastructure, policing, education, I would probably vote for them,” he said.

While the couple are optimistic about the election results, they are also concerned about the instability of the coalition government. Julius Malema said they were frightened by the fact that his party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which advocates nationalizing the country’s central bank, would demand a seat in the Ministry of Finance as a condition of cooperation.

“That way he would have control over the funds,” Mr. Matifuha said.

“What good will that do?” asked his wife.

“Nothing,” her husband exclaimed.

“Thank God you are in fourth place,” she said of Malema’s party.

Nonetheless, Malema’s party has made inroads among the black middle class in urban centres. But not as well as the newcomer, the People’s Spear (MK), led by former ANC president Jacob Zuma. Ms Mathifha’s eyes widened when she saw MK become the third largest party. But like other breakaway parties, she hopes MK will fade into obscurity.

“The most embarrassing thing is how low the ANC has come,” she said.

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