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JOHANNESBURG — Are we in an era in South Africa where no political party is capable of stepping up to the plate and solving the country’s burning problems? This is a question that Graham Sell explores in this piece as he slams the ANC as well as the DA and EFF. Perhaps clearing the swamp in 2019 may be more difficult than we all anticipate, even if the ANC loses that election… – Gareth van Zyl
By Graham Sell*
Let’s face it, Jacob Zuma has us right where he wants us – endlessly gnawing on the bones of “State Capture”, while simultaneously fixating us on what his next irrational move might be. How many more leaked emails, articles, books, round-table discussions, international speeches, etc is it going to take before we wake up and realise that he has no intention of going anywhere in the short-term?
While we are all bumping our gums with indignation, our country is being decimated by self-serving politicians who are fighting over the carcass of what was once a great liberation movement. We must stop talking, and start taking proactive countermeasures to block this ongoing and systematic destruction of our democracy.
While a main perpetrator, the ANC is not solely responsible for the carnage. Our main opposition parties are to a greater or lesser extent also complicit. Whether it be through the application of double-standards in no-confidence votes, or lack of transparency in party funding that smacks of deliberate concealment by the DA; or the racially divisive and backwards-looking rhetoric being used by the EFF; these parties are also contributing to the growing disillusionment of the electorate, thereby further fanning the flames of distrust for all things political.
The EFF are a particularly clear and present danger to the survival of our fledgling democracy. The fact that they are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Great October (Russian) Revolution, that ushered in 74 years of rule by the largest and most violently oppressive regime, points to where their heads are. Legitimate debate in Russia was snuffed out, millions of dissenters were either assassinated or died in the notorious Gulags, and the poor were further marginalised through denialism of the existence of poverty. The additional fact that EFF leadership has made a point of obtaining degrees and doctorates in politics should also be a warning that they are callously playing with the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. In other words, they are fully aware that they are pushing a failed ideology, but continue to do so because they know populism will always find favour with “the masses”.
Equally disturbing in the populist vein – have you noticed how Zupta faction Radical Economic Transformation rhetoric, and EFF White Monopoly Capital/Nationalisation rhetoric are moving ever closer together? In politically correct language, we are caught in the vice like grip of “identity politics”, but in real language it is nothing more than blatant race-baiting. Resorting to this form of gutter politics is proof that they are devoid of original ideas, and have no sustainable solutions for the problems facing South Africa.
On the other side of the political divide, the DA is attempting to impersonate the ANC– continually referring to ANC struggle heroes while virtually ignoring their very own heroine, Helen Suzman. Mmusi Maimane’s naivety is also quite breathtaking. The country is in the hands of a President who has no respect for the Constitution, yet Mmusi is searching disclosure of interest records to see if JZ has perhaps broken the Parliamentary Executive Code of Ethics – viewing the records himself, not delegating to a subordinate or requisitioning the appropriate information, but posing for a photograph with sleeves rolled up. Oh dear!
While it is unsurprising that we are preoccupied with political events unfolding at a national level, an equally pressing issue is the parlous state of provincial and local government. A lack of leadership at all levels has fostered a dangerous form of political anarchy that threatens the foundational fabric of our society. When looked at holistically, from top to bottom our political system does not promote genuine democracy, but rather feeds into the cadre deployment and patronage networks that are the preferred modus operandi of political party leaders.
A new brand of leadership is needed. One that does not make undeliverable promises, but rather fosters unity through practical and, where necessary, pragmatic policies. Take free tertiary education as an example. Across-the-board free education is presently unaffordable without robbing Peter to pay Paul, so students will only profit at the expense of other equally important government initiatives. Yet it makes practical sense to provide free tertiary education in spheres such as science, engineering, and medicine for example, where we have dire skills shortages. Full subsidisation of TVET colleges is also a given as we are desperately short of artisanal skills. Students of some of the more esoteric subjects will need to pay their own way or, if we really want to offer free tertiary education to everyone, then the number of these students needs to be reduced to affordable levels. Pragmatically, it makes no sense to provide free education in an oversupplied discipline to swathes of people, when their chance of obtaining employment at the end of their degree course ranges between extremely limited, and non-existent. The saddest part of the education debate is that we generally ignore the fundamental cause of our skills shortage, which is an extremely inadequate level of basic education. From crumbling infrastructure that can claim a life of untold potential through drowning in a sea of human excrement, to a lack of proper textbooks, to undertrained and sometimes abusive teachers – the litany of disasters in our system of basic education goes on and on.
The current political order is failing spectacularly to map a sustainable way forward. If we are to realise our full potential as a nation and genuinely achieve a better life for all, we must find a new leader with the moral strength and physical courage to take on the daunting task of recalibrating our political landscape – someone with the capacity to unite ALL South Africans behind a campaign to rid ourselves of the Zupta parasites and their cronies, and begin the massive task of rebuilding not only the economy, but interracial trust and understanding. That person is out there somewhere. We just need to give them sufficient encouragement to feel confident in stepping up and taking the reins of leadership.
The fires of racial division are being stoked by irresponsible politicians in their single-minded quest to seize the levers of power. We need to douse those fires quickly and effectively. To do this we must recognise and accept that a united voice is more powerful than the discordant clamour of disparate outrage that prevails today. The first step is one of introspection. To borrow from John F. Kennedy, we need to ask ourselves “not what our country can do for us, but what can we do for our country”.
Right now, I am politically homeless with a desperate need for somewhere to hang my hat. A place where I can roll up my sleeves, and help to make South Africa work as well as I know it can. That place hasn’t been built yet, but I live in hope that it will be, and soon.
- Graham Sell is author of the anti-PR blog Disconnected Democracy.