In response to Steuart Pennington: 2024 elections are a political circus of a hundred kings

In Warren Schmidt’s reflection on Steuart Pennington’s article about the upcoming 2024 elections in South Africa, he shares a sense of despair. Pennington highlights the staggering increase in political parties, exceeding 100 in number which Schmidt compares to a chaotic cocktail. He emphasises that, like a good espresso, a country’s political landscape thrives on simplicity. He criticises the ongoing circus of political alliances, urging the electorate to consider unity for collective good over the chaos of numerous competing kings.

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By Warren Schmidt

I read with mortification, overwhelmed by a sense of hopeless despair, Steuart Pennington’s article: What can we expect from the 2024 elections

I still have a vivid recollection of standing inside the ballot box during the previous national election, sporting an ink-stained thumbnail, and staring incredulously at the dizzying number of political parties displayed across a ballot sheet. It took me a while to unfold the paper, and at least treble the time to spot my preferred candidate party. I then had to apply a Zen-like state of mind and steady hand to ensure my X was placed in the right place, given that the ballot sheet looked like the Italian Basilica di San Vitale mosaic. 

Pennington’s article alluded to there now being more than 100 candidate parties! Surely this must be worthy of entry into the Guiness Book of World Records? At the last election, when I gesticulated my dismay at the sheer number of parties to my fellow countrymen, it was audibly defended, and I was told that this was a sign of a progressive democracy. There was a sense of national pride that we could endorse so many entities. The ruling party must be rubbing their hands with joyous glee at being able to split the electorate into so many opposite directions. What better way to take the spotlight off incompetence and corruption and scatter the light of the rainbow nation through a deceitful prism.  

Any connoisseur of fine coffee will know that less is more. Making a fine expresso or cafĂ© latte requires a maximum or two, or perhaps three key ingredients, with perhaps a touch of sweetener. The same applies to mixing up a fine cocktail like a strawberry daiquiri. It requires three ingredients at most. South Africa’s political diaspora is akin to a giant beer mug filled with a hundred all sorts, which at best is exceeding unhealthy, but more likely to be extremely toxic.  

The Democratic Alliance’s strategy of trying to round up and lasso the stray cattle to form alliances is destined to fail. We’ve seen this pantomime play out repeatedly since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy, with a steady flow of political fallouts spawning yet another string of breakaway parties. Instead of using valuable time to work in cohesion towards employment, education, health and building a resilient economy, parliament has become a free-for-all circus of rampaging clowns trying to compete for ringleader. Everyone in South Africa wants to be king, and the more kings, the more conflict. 

At some point, South Africa’s electorate will need to wake up from their slumber and decide whether having a few incorruptible powerful kings willing to work together for the collective good will be better than having a hundred kings wasting time and taxes trying to outcompete one another for podium time. The online Cambridge Dictionary defines the phrase “divide and conquer” as “a way of keeping yourself in a position of power by causing disagreements among other people so that they are unable to oppose you.” South Africa, take heed of this political ploy. 

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