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Ball now in opposition's court

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa in Port Shepston in preparation for the January 8 Statement.
FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa in Port Shepston in preparation for the January 8 Statement.

This weekend saw the governing ANC holding its 107th birthday celebrations. As has become custom in the political calendar, the birthday bash - which coincided with the launch of the party's election manifesto - officially marked the start of a new political year.

This being an election year, the well-attended event at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban has set the tone, not only for the party's deployees in government and parliament, but for opposition too.

In the coming weeks, parties such as the DA and the EFF would be holding their own mass rallies in which, through the attending crowds, they would try to convince voters that they are big and strong enough to take on the ANC.

If the opposition learned anything from the weekend's ANC gathering it is this: the divisions over former president Jacob Zuma within the ANC have not been deep enough to weaken the party's support in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country that used to be Zuma's strongholds.

What this means is that, contrary to speculation, the opposition is not going into this election against a weakened ANC machinery. President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have succeeded in keeping all factions united, if only for the objective of winning the upcoming polls.

The opposition would therefore have to work much harder than just rely on ANC splits for a better performance at the polls.

They would have to present viable alternatives to what Ramaphosa promised the electorate on Saturday.

As is often the case ahead of elections, the ANC manifesto provided a good diagnosis of the country.

Job creation, land reform, fixing the civil service, breaking up monopolies and growing the economy were identified as much of the issues the governing party would focus on if it wins the elections.

However after about 25 years in power, and having made similar noises ahead of every election before, the ANC may find that its message is not trusted by sections of the electorate.

But is the opposition ready to capitalise on this lack by providing voters with realistic alternatives to existing ANC policies?

The next few weeks are going to enlighten us.

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