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Socialist Review, June 1994

Charlie Kimber

Countdown to compromise


From Socialist Review, No. 176, June 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Charlie Kimber analyses the election results in South Africa and Mandela’s new cabinet

The election results were worth waiting for. The ANC won 62.6 percent of the votes and the National Party just 20.4 percent. Inkatha cheated its way to power in Natal but even then could manage just ten percent nationally.

In some areas the ANC outperformed all expectations: it won a staggering 92 percent in Northern Transvaal region, 83 percent in North West region and in Eastern Cape 84 percent.

The best results came from areas where there has been recent struggle. In the former Bophuthatswana ‘homeland’ the ANC won 93 percent and in the former Ciskei it managed 87 percent. The corrupt ‘homeland’ rulers had been overthrown by strikes, demonstrations and uprisings.

This analysis is confirmed when we look at the poorer results. In the Western Cape the ANC won just one in three votes and the National Party dominates the local parliament. The regional premier will be Hernus Kriel, minister for law and order under the last apartheid government and implicated in a score of hit squad murders.

The National Party ran a viciously racist campaign in the area designed to set ‘coloured’ (mixed race) voters – who form the majority in the region – against black Africans.

Using techniques borrowed from the Tories and the US Republicans, the NP claimed that the ANC was ‘soft’ on a local serial killer. At some of the polls the effect of the racist message was clear with coloured and African voters exchanging brutal insults.

Yet this was far from inevitable. Apartheid has left deep divisions in the Western Cape by granting coloureds marginal privileges over blacks, but at points those divisions have disappeared.

In 1986, during the uprisings against apartheid, coloured youth deliberately called themselves ‘black’. But the ANC never built on this mood.

The second problem in the Western Cape flowed from the very limited reforms the ANC promises. There will be very little new taxation of the rich or big companies. It can seem to coloured workers that all the ANC will do is reduce their meagre wages in order to uplift the black population. When nobody talks about liberation, the oppressed fall out.

The ANC’s response to fears that it would lose the election was to steer even further rightwards. When (black) squatters occupied houses which had been zoned for coloureds, ANC militants were sent to throw them out.

The result of all this was to strengthen the NP. In the medium term there are likely to be sharp struggles in the Western Cape. Kriel may try to block some ANC measures.

The potential for struggle, and for horror, is even stronger in Natal. Here Chief Buthelezi’s Inkatha movement was awarded 50.3 percent of the vote. It certainly did not win that figure. In the end there was no pretence of democracy. Everybody knew that Inkatha had systematically cheated, everyone knew that Inkatha had set up pirate polling stations and staffed them with the ‘homeland’ police force – but all the parties agreed to ignore it.

Inkatha was allowed to have a majority in the regional parliament. Now Buthelezi is raising doubts about just how far the ANC’s writ runs in an area which includes a fifth of the country’s population, and says the ANC’s Reconstruction and Development Programme is impossible to implement.

The ANC’s compromise with Inkatha is very unpopular with its local militants, who have seen 15,000 people butchered in the region in the last decade. Controlling the regional parliament will give a new boost to Buthelezi and allow him access to funds. There is a real possibility of renewed fighting at an even higher level.

At one stage during the counting of votes it looked likely the ANC would win more than two thirds of the vote, which would have given it additional powers to draw up a new constitution when the Government of National Unity ends in five years’ time.

In one of the most bizarre twists to a remarkable election, Nelson Mandela went on television to say that he hoped that his party did not win so many votes. The final result will have pleased him.

Now the ANC faces its real test. It is constrained by the presence of other parties in the cabinet but most people still expect fairly swift change.

Mandela’s new cabinet

The new cabinet has 18 ANC members, seven from the National Party and three Inkatha. Pik Botha, the old foreign minister, has responsibility for minerals and energy. Botha masterminded the murderous campaign against the frontline states and supplied the right wing forces. His reward is a portfolio which includes the crucial decisions about the mines that provide much of the country’s wealth.

The NP’s Derek Keys remains minister of finance. Keys’s reappointment, opposed by many in the ANC, was seen as a reassuring sign to international capital. The NP also gets welfare and population development, provincial affairs and constitutional development, environment, the deputy justice minister and a deputy president.

Inkatha’s portfolios are even more shocking. A party responsible for tens of thousands of deaths is rewarded with the Home Affairs ministry for Buthelezi, who will have a controlling hand over organisation of the next election.

To ‘balance’, a few left wingers were brought in. Jay Naidoo, the ex-leader of the Cosatu trade union federation, will be a minister without portfolio charged with ensuring that the Reconstruction and Development Programme is implemented. Winnie Mandela, hero to many of the youth in the townships, will be deputy to the Inkatha arts minister.

But other left wingers were not given jobs. Cyril Ramaphosa, leading ANC member and ex-head of the mine workers’ union, was snubbed for deputy president and refused to take a lower post. Moses Mayekiso, widely tipped to be in the cabinet, was offered nothing. Peter Mokaba, a youth leader identified with the slogan, ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’, was predicted to be the new tourism minister, but the post went elsewhere.

The cabinet seems to be working quite amicably, with Joe Modise, the new ANC defence minister, already agreeing with his NP colleagues that new weapons and jets are needed rather than frittering money away on houses and jobs.

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