When the dust settles on next Wednesday’s election and the final votes have been counted, irrespective of who wins or loses, there will be fervent looks around at who would be possible alliance partners, whether it is at national or provincial level.
The nature of politics is that alliances may differ from national to provincial level and even from province to province.
One of the most interesting alliances of recent years has been the one between the EFF and the DA.
But before that, there had been a coalition of sorts between the ANC and the National Party, the two biggest opponents during the apartheid years: one trying to ensure the continuation of our race-based society and the other one opposing it with all its might. At the height of the Struggle against apartheid, no one could have foreseen the future co-operation between the two parties, which finally led to the demise of the NP.
Before the last local government elections, nobody would have bet on an alliance between the DA and the EFF, two very different political parties – one representing what is seen in many areas as an old and white constituency, while desperately wanting to be relevant to black voters, and the other representing young and black voters frustrated by what they believe to be empty promises by established political parties, but mainly the ANC.
After dissecting the utterings from politicians in the last few weeks, it looks highly unlikely that anyone would want to be in alliance with anyone else. There has been a lot of hatred and intolerance spewed out by politicians.
But come a few days after the elections, when all the votes have been counted and the calculations of power have been made, some of these politicians who have been fighting with each other will become each other’s best friends.
Politics, after all, is all about numbers. It is about making sure that, firstly, enough people vote for you so that you can rule by yourself and, if that does not work, looking at who you need to get into bed with in order to make sure you keep your worst enemies out.
Many DA members felt betrayed by the alliances the party made with the EFF in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay after the last local government elections, but they were prepared to grin and bear it because it meant that, for the first time, the DA got the mayorship of major metros outside of the Western Cape.
The unfortunate thing is that this spirit of toenadering and camaraderie does not often go down to the ordinary members and supporters of political parties who, before the elections, took their line from their leaders who will now appear to be deserting them in pursuit of political alliances.
The bitterness and hatred that has been spread during the election campaign will take longer to erase from poor communities who have been told to hate people with a bit more privilege than them. In many cases, political electioneering promotes hatred and sometimes even violence. Yet, the same people who promoted intolerance might soon find themselves in alliance with others against whom they campaigned not too long ago.
It is probably a tall order to think that politicians will be more deliberate in their utterances and will think about the long-term consequences of what they say. But, again, I suppose politics is not about the long term, it is about how many votes they can get in the short term so that they and some of their supporters can also get on board the political gravy train.
All of us should have the interests of South Africa at heart and we need to show this in our words and our actions.
* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.