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Khadija Patel: Mind the change, ANC

Election season in South Africa is officially over. The president has been inaugurated, the Cabinet announced and our light poles are steadily being relieved of their burden as sacrificial flag bearers of the country's politics.

Yes, the ANC has won another election in South Africa.

While some disparage the popularity of the ANC, coming perilously close to suggesting the vast majority of South Africans exist in a cloud of deluded sympathy for the ruling party, the place of the ANC in the hearts and minds of the ANC cannot be undermined.

The majority of South Africans have shown, once more, that it is the ANC that best represents them. The vast majority of South Africans have indicated that it is the ANC that is most relevant to their lived experience of this country.

And yet, it would do well for the ANC to remember that the world is in constant flux, people change, their values shift, ambitions evolve and people may come to see their experiences under new light. So while the currency of the struggle, and efforts to place the ANC's 20-year rule of South Africa within a greater context of hundreds of years of colonialism may be relevant now, and indeed for some time yet, it is the ANC that must also find space to change itself, to better represent the majority of South Africans.

The people who voted in the ANC, the majority of South Africans, will shake up the party, they will shift their political allegiances if the ANC does not move in the right direction, if the ANC is not more relevant to the everyday struggle to eke out a life and living in South Africa.

And there are lessons from abroad that the ANC would do well to take note of.

In the most recent general elections in India, the Congress party registered its worst performance in electoral politics in independent India, winning just 44 seats of the 543-member parliament.

And while we don't have a political dynasty as the Indians have in the Ghandis, what we do have is a liberation economy in common. Congress, much like the ANC, are wont to behave as though they alone brought freedom to India. And Congress has built its political existence around its liberation credentials, it has subsisted on its own history.

Sixty-seven years after independence, however, Narendra Modi's BJP sold 'development' from the stump, and they won. The BJP's ascent comes with a subtext of Hindu nationalism and yes, there are nationalists and Hindu right wingers pushing through the BJP. There are, however, also many other Indians who are just desperate for change. Many Indians hope Modi can make a material difference to their lives.

The thumping defeat suffered by Congress shows that a political party with a proud liberation history is not assured of popular support if it does not adapt to the changing realities of the people it seeks to serve.

As one commentator pointed out recently, the Congress party in India has lifted 150 million Indians out of poverty and yet it struggled in this election to effectively communicate its message to Indians, it struggled to show any relevance to the reality of the present day.

So when President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday, "We will do everything that we promised you when you voted for us," he, at least, appears to understand what is at stake. The earnest promises of "radical economic transformation" have been proffered, but unless they are actually fulfilled, unless the ANC changes with the times, it will struggle to remain relevant to South Africans.

Khadija Patel is a writing fellow at the University of Witwatersrand's Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser). Follow her on Twitter _ @khadijapatel_

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