NOT COPING: Voters did not follow Mosiuoa Lekota's party in the elections, choosing instead to stick with the ANC. 23/04/09. © Unknown.
NOT COPING: Voters did not follow Mosiuoa Lekota's party in the elections, choosing instead to stick with the ANC. 23/04/09. © Unknown.

Redi Direko

Redi Direko

Many political parties are licking their wounds today. Some promised much and were too bold for their own good.

Fortunately for us voters, it is not what they say that matters but how we vote, and it would seem many parties have been cut down to size. South Africans have spoken.

The smaller, insignificant parties are used to being ignored. The likes of Keep It Straight and Simple, Movement Democratic Party, New Vision Party, Women Forward, South African Democratic Congress, A Party, Great Congress of South Africa, Pan African Movement, and a few others have offered very little to South Africans. Their groans and sighs have hardly made South Africans sit up and listen.

In terms of our Constitution, they have every right to exist, but the cost of printing ballot papers and setting up the electronic results board could have saved the IEC a lot of money had it not been obliged to accommodate these silly excuses for political parties.

They are a complete waste of time and it is clear South African voters have rejected them. But for as long as the leaders of these parties enjoy seeing their faces on ballot papers, we have to contend with them. Aaaah, democracy!

The picture looks even more ridiculous if you consider that in 2004, some 142 political parties had registered but only 37 contested the elections. Five years later, we have 117 parties registered at the national, or provincial level, and 26 contested seats for the National Assembly. They should be compelled to do better than present spouses, family and friends as supporters.

The DA has retained its position as the official opposition while some did not cope very well.

The remainder of opposition parties have nothing to boast about. They have made the right noises in some instances, but they are not growing in any meaningful way. The elections have come and gone, and these parties need to do some introspection and be honest about this paralysis.

Why are voters not warming up to them? They cannot solely blame this on the hegemony of the ANC. It's time they were hard on themselves, grow up and inject some ingenuity in the way they operate. Pointing out the weaknesses of the ANC as a campaign strategy is necessary but is not going to deliver voters.

Once again the ANC has been given the responsibility of steering this country to greener pastures. It wobbled when Cope was born but soon got back on its feet, dusted itself off and hatched a sleek but noisy campaign. Obviously, it worked.

This was the most hotly contested election since 1994. The scandals that have befallen the party have in one way or another taken their toll. This may not be manifested in the outcome of the polls, but morally the ANC has lost some of its steam.

Voters have been generous. They have treated the ANC like a beloved but flawed spouse. You don't normally walk out of a relationship because your significant other has disappointed and wronged you. Most of us find it in our hearts to reignite the spark and remind ourselves why we fell in love in the first place.

By standing in long queues, in the bitter cold, the young and old, rich and poor have said to the ANC, we are letting you in once again. The ruling party must remember that love and loyalty are not inexhaustible. It must reciprocate.

The party needs to look no further than Nelson Mandela. In his last speech as president of the ANC, when handing the baton to Mbeki in 1997, he said "there is a heavy responsibility for a leader elected unopposed. He may use that power to settle scores with his detractors, to marginalise . to get rid of them and surround himself with yes-men and women. His first duty is to allay the concerns of his colleagues to enable them to discuss freely without fear within internal structures".

There is a "heavy responsibility" on the ANC to ensure that South Africa comes first.