While South Africans continue to interrogate mechanisms for socioeconomic reform, with only one active Muslim led political party, the Muslim community has not shown evidence of a strong political will, particularly in the lead to upcoming local elections.
In preparation for August elections, the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) conducted a survey that analyzed the participation of the Muslim community in the political process and in the elections. In addition, the survey focussed on the existence of Muslim Political Parties and the criteria that Muslims in general decide upon when supporting a political party.
In an interview with VOC, SAMNET Chairperson Dr. Faizel Suliman explained the electoral and political trends within the Muslim community and gave insight into some of the findings of the survey.
Suliman explained that despite the growing number of Muslims and Muslim organizations, there does not appear to be an assertive political interest within the Muslim communities of South Africa.
He expressed surprise that though many Muslims are conservative, the Africa Muslim Party and presently, Al-Jama-ah, have both failed.
“There is a huge tabliegh jamaa’ah movement that have istimaa and hold gush every Thursday. Such a well-structured movement you would think would be able to garner 200 000 votes easily, especially in confined areas,” Suliman noted.
He said that while many South African Muslims support the African National Congress (ANC) for its role in the dismantlement of the Apartheid, the current administration, which appears to be in conflict with the Constitution and the Freedom Charter, raises concerns about the manner in which Muslims are expected to vote.
In addition, opposition parties, Suliman asserted do not provide adequate recourse for the Muslim voter, as the main opposition party’s support of Israel has increased criticism of the party within the Muslim community.
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) has not been free of scandals, we all remember the aeroplane ticket scam, the manipulation of funds, and for Muslims the added problem of foreign policy. So in one sense you are fed up with the ANC, but voting for the DA is voting for a party that is openly funded by Zionists,” he said.
Suliman said that despite the issue of the choice of a party, of eligible Muslim voters, only a small percentage have registered to vote.
Do party manifestos speak to the needs of the Muslim voter?
Suliman explained that while the ANC and DA manifestos speak to the needs of all citizens, including concerns pertaining to; electricity, water, rezoning, and other relevant municipal issues, local authorities do not always apply themselves in resolving the pertinent issues.
“We had a concert in March, the Durban City Council spent R3 million to clean the city for a one concert when taps don’t work and you have to wait a week for your electricity to be sorted out,” Suliman explained.
He said that he expects that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) may practice caution as the party speaks to social issues that directly impacts poorer communities.
As Muslims, Suliman further noted, communities need to vote in line with what is beneficial for the poor.
“The people are human; they want to know that their properties are secure and may be afraid of voting for parties that are talking about nationalizing,” he said.
How does the local elections impact communities
Suliman noted that at the level of local elections, voters are able to vote for the individuals whom they feel fit the criteria, unlike the national elections where voters vote for a party. Voters should, therefore, choose candidate’s based on their ability to ensure socioeconomic advancement of communities.
“At municipal elections, the candidate that you know may be the best candidate for your ward may not be from the party of your choice, that is what people must take into consideration,” Suliman continued.