VOTErs make a CHOICE

Don Makatile

It did not surprise many that Khutsong - after its residents won the demarcation debacle - would, in the words of fiery community leader Jomo Mogale, vote 95percent ANC.

Whatever the actual figure, there's no disputing the fact that the people of the Merafong municipality wanted to reward the ruling ANC for acting on their demands.

Cope, for whom Mogale only had venomous words, was nowhere to be seen in Khutsong, thanks to the liability in their ranks - Mosiuoa Patrick Lekota, the gung-ho former defence minister in the Thabo Mbeki government, and now Cope's president.

Nationally, there was definitely an overall pattern to the votes cast in the April 22 poll.

Political analyst Mohau Pheko says the youth and rural constituency "delivered the vote" for the ANC, who take a 65,9percent majority to the national assembly when MPs are sworn in on 9 May.

"They really worked the youth," says Pheko of the ANC strategy. Its young wing leader, Julius Malema, was also an asset, Pheko says.

"He spoke to the very issues that young people understand in a language they understood."

The rebellious streak in Malema appealed to the youth, whose very relationship with authority is proverbially adversarial.

Pheko refers to the coloured vote in Western Cape as the "Rasool factor".

Former premier Ebrahim Rasool fell out of favour with the post-Polokwane leadership, becoming a victim to the purge that saw many Mbeki-ites hounded out of their positions.

"It was a miscalculation on the part of the ANC," says Pheko about Western Cape. "That [Mcebisi] Skwatsha guy was never going to do it for them."

It was the DA instead who played a deft hand in the province, the only one in the country the ANC did not win - again.

"For those coloured voters who felt marginalised by the government and needed somebody to reassure them of their worth, the DA offered a place in the sun," says Pheko, who feels that housing tender scandals in the province cost the ruling party even the black vote.

The DA, says Pheko, fought a good fight. "They studied the demographics: Look at the posters."

The DA posters spoke to voters in their own language.

"DA leader Helen Zille is efficient," says Pheko, who made the effort to go and hear the soon-to-be former Cape Town mayor speak a few times before the elections.

In a step-by-step build-up to winning big in 2014, the DA is "leveraging" their experience, says Pheko. "They said to the voter, 'look at how efficiently we've been running the city, imagine what we can do at provincial level'. The voter then gave them the province. They will do well at provincial level and use the same experience for the national vote."

The DA has completely shed the stigma of being a white party, while the ANC used class - "the poor in Nkandla who see him [Jacob Zuma] as one of their own" - to woo voters.

"The ANC maximised this Zulu-ness," says Pheko. "They played the ethnic card to the hilt."

But in a paper that academic Adam Habib co-wrote for the Human Sciences Research Council, he argues that evidence collected from post-apartheid's general elections reveals "that the racial census thesis is not the only factor that determines and/or explains voter behaviour of the South African electorate".

"The indications are that significant sections of the electorate make rational choices during elections and decide on the bases of information available to them that guides them to choose which party most closely represent their material and other interests."

Using this argument, could Cope then be described as elitist?

In Khutsong, Mogale says, the rest of the five percent of votes went to the PAC "because they listened" to the residents.

Could this perhaps explain why, of the seats in the national assembly after the ANC has taken the lion's share of 264, the DA 67, Cope 30 and the IFP down to 18, the rest of the smaller parties will have to contend with one, two, or three "sympathy" seats?

In ANC-speak, the people have spoken!