Opinion: TK Pooe
It is my viewpoint that the 2021 Local Government Elections (LGE) can be best described as the elections of ‘knowns and unknowns”.
There are many known facts and developments we as citizens understand about the likely outcomes, emanating from previous elections. For instance, the previous LGE of 2016 introduced the idea and practice of ‘coalition governments’ in municipalities, like the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), the City of Tshwane (CoT), and the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE). As to whether this development has been negative or positive, these elections will give us some indication of what citizens thought of them.
Moreover, these elections will also detail whether areas like the Sedibeng and Westrand are now ready to try alternative political parties and arrangements.
And perhaps more interesting, or worryingly, one of the most ‘unknown’ developments set to define the LGE 2021 is how Covid-19 will affect the voter’s approach and actions to voting in many Gauteng municipalities. This article, therefore, wants to argue that the 2021 LGE are going to be the elections of ‘knowns and unknown’.
Understanding the knowns and unknowns
Perhaps it is important to understand what is meant by this idea of ‘knowns and unknowns’ from a Public Policy perspective.
One of the best explanations comes from the former United States of America’s Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
In 2012 Rumsfeld tried to explain why, and what evidence led to the US government attacking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He said “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say; there are things that we know, we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know, we don’t know”.
While Rumsfeld was ridiculed for this statement, over time it has come to explain the idea of ‘known and unknown’ developments in the policy planning processes of many counties and institutions. Therefore, putting this idea into action using the LGE 2021, the following six examples will try to put the uncertainty of these elections into their proper context, and leave it up to you the reader, to decide how much is known and unknown.
The known factors at play:
- Economic Opportunities outside, and even inside the three metropolitan municipalities of CoE, CoT and CoJ, are becoming scarcer. This problem is more pronounced in places like the Sedibeng and Westrand.
- Gauteng voters already started moving away from the African National Congress (ANC) in the 2016 LGE in many Gauteng municipalities. This is due to their perceived failures and weaknesses in the areas of service delivery.
- Opposition parties, particularly those metropolitan municipalities in Gauteng, have shown that the idea of coalition government is here to stay for better or worse.
Unknown factors at play
- The Election Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) ability to convince citizens that they can hold a free, fair, and Covid-19 competent election is under serious scrutiny and doubt. This could mean that numerous voters could choose to not vote. And more intriguingly, will potential voters vote on a non-Public holiday, if Monday 1 November, is not declared a public holiday, or will this potential long weekend ‘affect’ voter turnout?
- Will the ANC’s numerous ‘own goals’ lead its large voting base to either stay at home or actually look for new alternatives in the form of independent candidates, if it is barred from participating or unable to put candidates forward in the LGE 2021?
- If opposition parties are unable to lead municipalities outright beyond the Midvaal Municipality, what does this say about their ability to be considered ‘governments in waiting’?