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SA’s shifting political sands – how to avoid a pariah status repeat – Chuck Stephens

CAPE TOWN — It seems the more we try and correct historical injustices, the more we alienate one another. Throw in a dose of greed and corruption, laced with decades of exclusion from the wealth of the land, and you get to where we are now. Which is why this analysis by Chuck Stephens, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership, is so helpful. It’s not often one can see at a glance exactly who stands where on what issue. For the greater cynics among us, the mere mention of the word Rohingya (Myanmar’s genocidal military crack down on the Rohingya guerrilla group), evokes images of Ian Smith’s bush war against Zanu and Zapu, PW Botha’s brutal throttling of township protest and Bob Mugabe’s Matabeleland massacres – except those were mostly against sympathetic majority groupings in which armed guerrillas hid out. Stephen’s comparison of South Africa’s white tribe with Myanmar’s minority Muslims evokes a subtly different, yet still-frightening scenario. The fuse to such a racial powder keg would be a right-wing act, akin to the Chris Hani murder. We have no current Madiba equivalent nor an elevated mood of reconciliation to help. Perhaps our nation rebuilding demands an urgent new political alliance built on Project Re-Capture. – Chris Bateman

By Chuck Stephens*

Although there are numerous parties already in existence, and others in gestation, the 2019 elections will basically offer voters a choice between Holding the Centre, Radicalising to the Left, or Consolidating on the Right.

It is very possible that this polarising to both Left and Right could even split the ANC, which has been suffering from a serious Identity Crisis. The antidote that the ANC has been using to treat this malady is strong doses of “Unity”. But the pull to the Left into RET and land expropriation without compensation is going to erode a lot of ANC support on the Red side. Then there are those – both black and white – who prefer the Blue alternative which might save South Africa from an earthquake that could lead to it becoming once again a pariah among the nations.

A man casts his ballot during South Africa’s local government elections in KwaMashu, north of Durban, in this file photo. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

The shifting allegiances in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane coalitions seem to be an effort by the Reds to woo the ANC to swing Left. The “fight-back” campaign within the ANC is ironically lined up with this courting – imagine Malema wooing the Zuma faction.

The DA has always had a sword of Damocles hanging over it in the three big metros that it governs through coalitions. But do not under-estimate the gravitational pull that its mantra of the Rule of Law will have on those ANC voters who are law-abiding citizens, not rabble-rousers.

Here is a summary of the shifting political spectrum:

LEFT CENTRE  RIGHT
BFLF EFF SACP The ANC’s fight-back faction The ANC’s true DNA DA
Look-alikes PAC SAFTU,

Emerging Labour party

UDM COPE

Agang

Afriforum
Land redistribution Without compensation Invade unused land Focus is industry and mines Willing sellers Phase out whites

Phase in blacks

Black & white co-ownership
Affirmative action Radical re-distribution White members are rare BEE BEE Review BEE Discard BEE
Non-racialism Anti-white Some ugly rhetoric A truly mixed-race team, based on a shared ideology A black clique Ramaphosa has white staffers and a mixed Cabinet Maimane is in a mixed marriage
Constitution Ignore it Revise it Abide by it Lip service Devoted to it Devoted to it
Parliament No seats yet High esteem reflected in its SONA ejections High esteem An inconvenience – keep all voting out in the open High esteem – stay in power but give it some teeth High esteem reflected in its SONA walk-outs
Judiciary Contempt Esteem by its use of the courts and demand of secret No-confidence vote Esteem Lip-service Esteem for balance of powers Constantly using courts to defend democracy including MPs voting in secret
Malfeasance & waste Andile was recruited by the Guptas to write about WMC Tough talk – claim to have shed the DNA inherited from the ANC Tough talk indicating zero tolerance Culture of looting Supra, Abrahams, Ntelemeza and Bhengu are down…Zondo is on a roll Zero tolerance – send them to jail
Civil society Intolerant Collaboration based on a common enemy Respect for this social space So-called “dangerous NGOs” Respect for this social space Collaborators (e.g. friends of the court)
Trade unions Urban work force may not really want farm land Supports unions that leave the ANC The foundation stones – urban, middle class Divisive (half the unions have left) Wants to keep the “broad church” status quo Labour should be part of Business sector, not in government
Trending Are rural, land issues really predominant? No track record at all in governance Ready to contest elections alone Despotic democracy Starting to talk tough Disciplining Zille and de Lille indicates a shift of internal power

Assuming that both the DA and the EFF will continue to grow their “market-share” in the 2019 elections, then the ANC will be caught in this squeeze. This will put even more pressure on its Identity Crisis, and may result in a split. Perhaps only a split of allegiances, not a formal divorce? Maybe the ANC factions can still live together in Luthuli House, while sleeping in different bedrooms?

The prospects of a Red-Blue alliance are dimming as the DA challenges the removal of Trollip as mayor of NMB. And as world opinion may be shifting to sympathise with the white African tribe – that could soon become South Africa’s Rohingya.

Read also: Race on for 2019 vote: Three alliances are emerging – Blue, Yellow and Red

Instead of joining the coalitions after the 2014 municipal elections and getting some hands-on experience at governance, the EFF stayed aloof and is now shuffling the deck, so to speak. This could cost them dearly in 2019 as voters see them as inexperienced power-mongers. They have achieved their objective of getting Land Reform onto the front burner. But now they look a bit redundant as the inertia of public and world opinion starts to harden around them.

Read also: All aboard SA’s gravy train – the business of politics; Graham Sell

Parties like IFP and COPE are just not going to buy into a radical Red leftist agenda. It is a mistake to think that most citizens think like that. They will vote for stability and experience. Changing the Constitution is no longer a prerequisite, which empties a lot of EFF’s assumptions about its own self-importance. It has become a legend in its own mind. It certainly does represent a minority of voters, but just that – a minority. Its treachery in turning on the anti-ANC coalitions will not sit well with many voters. By far the majority of citizens do not want those looters and plunderers back in power, at least until Project Re-capture has fully succeeded.

  • Chuck Stephens, Executive Director, Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership. 
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