In 1998 a book by the title Who Moved My Cheese was published by Dr. Spencer Johnson. This book was a motivational fable which dealt with four possible reactions that occur in response to change. The book follows four characters, two mice and two little people, and how each of them reacts to the change of their cheese being moved. The characters Hem and Haw deal with change by feeling victimized and complaining about theft and unfairness. Hem and Haw most likely take out the yellow, black, and green party badge of the ANC.
Since 1994 the question that so many South Africans, and indeed the world, waited to be answered was: what would happen when the African National Congress (ANC) loses power in an election? For years this question remained unanswered as the losses that the ANC had to endure were relatively small. The ANC only ever endured losses in both the local government elections as well as the national and provincial elections in a few spots that were mostly confined to some parts in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. This created the opportunity to put up a facade that the ANC is able to handle a transition of power away from Luthuli House. For many years the metaphorical cheese of the ANC was barely ever touched.
The process of democratic consolidation, as it is called, can take various forms.
Some point to institutionalization as a method of democratic consolidation, which is the idea that democracies are deepened and entrenched by the successful creation and improvement of secondary institutions of the democracy. Others argue that civic culture is the main measurement of democratic consolidation, which entails that all the people involved within the democratic structures of a country develop and work to sustain their relationship with others vis-a-vis is their own interests. Learning to lose and peacefully transfer power is key in any democracy.
During the local government elections of 3 August 2016, the ANC suffered their biggest electoral defeat since 1994. The ANC lost control over the capital city Tshwane, the economic hub of the country Johannesburg, the metropole of Cape Town for the third time since 2006, and the symbolically-named Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. This was a truly watershed local election. The ANC’s cheese was moved in a way that caught them off guard.
Fast forward three months after the results were declared.
Now we hear of disruptions, chaos and ungovernability from the ANC in the opposition benches of these municipalities. Long forgotten are the statements made by the upper echelons of the ANC that they will accept the election results. The ANC seems to have taken a decision not to enhance and develop our fledgling democracy by doing an adequate job as an effective opposition.
The results of 3 August 2016 are set to be a turning point for the oldest liberation movement in Africa. More and more evidence points towards the ANC not only losing its soul but also losing the respect of its own supporters.
Considering the fact that the ANC may be showing its true colours, the question that begs to be answered is: what does this mean for our democracy in general? What does this unwillingness of the ANC to partake in our democracy, albeit from the opposition benches, entail for our long-term security and protection of what so many sought to achieve?
One might be inclined to say that the biggest test will be with how the ANC deals with this new role in the coming years. How the ANC will adapt to their cheese being taken away.
The more pertinent question would rather be how South Africans will decide to treat the ANC which has lost its cheese. Will South Africans indulge this negative and anti-democratic behaviour solely based on the history of this once-mighty and proud party, or will South Africans decide to rather invest in the success of our democracy and its future?
If this recent election has done anything, it has shown that the citizens and individuals of our country hold the power. Our democratic future does not lie in how the ANC deals with losing power. The success of our democracy lies with the people – the citizens of South Africa.