Ido lekota

Ido lekota

The roller coaster of South African politics, which has left almost every South African panting, seems set to barge ahead in 2009.

Analysts believe the year could herald an era of multiparty competition, with the ANC facing its biggest challenge from the newly formed Congress of the People.

Formed by ANC dissidents - including the party's former national chairman Mosioua Lekota - Cope comes with some political gravitas because its leaders have struggle credentials earned as respected cadres of the Congress Movement.

Predictions are that Cope will get at least 10 percent of the votes.

Political analyst Prince Mashele believes that with the kind of leadership it has Cope will not do badly in the election.

"I cannot imagine Cope getting less than 10 percent of the votes," said Mashele.

This could translate into at least 40 seats in Parliament.

Mashele also believes that if Cope were to make the right noises during the election campaign it could replace the Democratic Alliance as official opposition. The DA won 50 seats in the 2004 election.

Mashele believes that Cope will "steal" most of its votes from the ANC. But he also believes that the party will win votes from opposition parties such as the DA, Azanian People Organisation and Independent Democrats.

Mashele says if Cope becomes the official opposition it would change the race-based opposition politics that parties such as the DA continue to be trapped in.

He believes that with a majority black party such as Cope being the opposition, the politics of identity will be replaced by the politics of issues.

But Mashele warns that such a situation could eventually be Cope's undoing. Because if the ANC performs, Cope will find it hard to come up with alternative issues to sustain it as a credible opposition.

Failing which the party could eventually face the same fate as other majority black opposition parties that have failed to make their way in the country's political arena.

Political analyst Steve Friedman agrees with Mashele that Cope poses the most serious challenge for the ANC.

But Friedman believes that the outcome of this year's election could either see the ANC pushing to come closer to the people or remaining complacent.

He argues that if the ANC wins a two-third majority it could see it as an endorsement by the voters and then become complacent.

On the other hand, if the party fails to achieve a two-third majority it could serve as a catalyst for the ANC to work harder towards moving closer to the people through, for example, improved service delivery.

Political analyst Sipho Seepe agrees with the other analysts that Cope is good for a multiparty democracy and that it will keep the ANC on its toes.

But Seepe is sceptical about Cope's policies and how sustainable they are in contrast to the ANC's.