South African Elections: Commentary: Nothing spectacular, please. It's upsetting

WHAT South Africa does not want today is surprises. Not big surprises, at any rate. By nightfall the number-crunchers hired by the local television and radio stations should have digested sufficient provisional results to give us a reasonably safe estimate of the outcome of the elections.

Justice having been done, the first priority is stability. Without stability, capital will not invest and if capital does not invest it will not be possible for the new national unity government to provide blacks with the liberation dividend: jobs, houses, water, electricity. If those who have voted for the ANC do not see tangible evidence that apartheid wrongs are being redressed, a climate will be created for greater instability that will lead South Africa further down the slippery slope.

To avoid this chain reaction, today's results must show that the ANC is the majority party, that F W de Klerk's National Party has fared more or less as their showings in the polls indicated, and that Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party will do well enough to qualify for at least one post in the cabinet.

This means the ANC must end up with at least 50 per cent of the vote, the National Party with no less than 15 per cent and Inkatha with a minimum of 5 per cent.

The big two parties will probably fare better than that but, in the highly unlikely event that Nelson Mandela does not emerge as the first black president, the prospects of unrest in the townships would be high.

Should the National Party end up with fewer than three cabinet ministers - 5 per cent of the poll is the constitutional requirement to qualify - then it is the white population that might become restless. This would not translate into mass mobilisation, but the feeling of being swamped by the black majority might inhibit investment and generate a new capital flight.

As for Inkatha, Chief Buthelezi has prepared the ground to cry foul should he perform badly. His constant bickering since polling began and his veiled threat on Wednesday to pull out of the polls have been interpreted as pre- emptive excuses for failure.

His capacity to provoke terrible bloodshed was demonstrated conclusively last week by the manner in which the political violence ended in KwaZulu-Natal virtually within hours of his announcement that Inkatha was taking part in the elections.

It is just as important that no party perform spectacularly better than expected. It would be preferable, and a number of ANC leaders recognise this, if the ANC did not pick up more than the two- thirds majority necessary single-handedly to rewrite the constitution.

Should the National Party get more than 30 per cent, the muttering in ANC circles this week about ballot-rigging by the white bureaucrats could become a roar.

A more ticklish question concerns KwaZulu-Natal. All the polls - and there have been many in the last six months - have pointed to the ANC picking up the majority of the Zulu vote. But few have given them more than 50 per cent outright once you factor in the white, Coloured and Indian electorate.

Should Inkatha cause a big upset and win the province, the ANC 'comrades', who are not lacking in guns, could emerge as the new spoilers. If Inkatha come a close second, which is what the realists in the conservative Zulu camp expect, that should cool nationalist passions.

There are plenty of possible permutations. An Inkatha- National Party alliance could assume control of the provincial parliament, as could a coalition of the ANC and the liberal Democratic Party. Whatever the outcome, a fine balance, satisfying the pride of all parties, is going to be required to keep this most volatile part of South Africa from simmering again.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions