It’s elections, not a pick-a-box show

2011-04-16 11:05

So ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe reckons the media plays an opposition role.

Talk of a pre-emptive strike.

Now, those of us who thought of criticising the ANC on any matter are supposed to cower because if we are ­critical of the ruling party, we would be proving Mantashe right.

Fortunately one of the things Mantashe and his comrades fought for was a society that allows for plurality of voices.

To bite our tongues because some zealot might think we are the opposition in disguise would be to betray the very struggle that Mantashe and his comrades fought for. That is why I will ignore his rantings as yet another symptom of the disease that afflicts politicians once an election date is set.

Mantashe surely does not want to suggest that his Cosatu counterpart Zwelinzima Vavi is “oppositionist” because he speaks of which we all know – corruption and a culture of self-enrichment by some leaders in Mantashe’s ­organisation.

If Mantashe and his comrades had not fought a brave and principled struggle, newspapermen like me would not feel entitled to criticise a powerful governing party and leader in society for its decision to announce the mayoral candidates for the metros after the elections.

We would also be too scared to take issue with his ridiculous reasoning that people vote for the ANC brand and not individuals.

Frankly, the argument makes no sense. Especially when the party has no qualms about announcing that Tony Ehrenreich will be its Cape Town candidate. Is Mantashe implying that Cape Town voters do not vote for the brand but rather for ­individuals?

The ANC’s decision is nothing more than the reducing of an election to a pick-a-box show.

Voters are expected to choose and then wait and see what they have “won”.

One wonders why the party asked communities to have a say in who should lead it at ward level, if in the final analysis it does not matter who the mayoral candidate is because whoever they might be, they will be implementing ANC policy? Why does this wisdom not hold when we have to elect the leader of the councillors we are painstakingly asked to scrutinise.

Mantashe paints a picture of an Orwellian ANC where thought control rules and followers simply line up behind the leader regardless of who he or she is, says or does. It smacks of what Mantashe’s Communist Party comrade Jeremy Cronin referred to as the Zanufication of the ANC.

For it was Zanu-PF stalwart and Zimbabwean vice-president, the late Simon Muzenda, who once told an election rally: “Even if we put a baboon . . . if you’re Zanu-PF you vote for that baboon.”

Only when we degenerate into an unthinking mob who populate an idiocracy should a party not allow us to engage critically with a citizen it wants us to confer powers on for them to make decisions that will affect our everyday lives.

We should be allowed to satisfy ourselves that the “baboon” we are being asked to vote for shares our vision and dreams for our city.

It is simply disingenuous to say it does not matter who leads our cities.

ANC leaders themselves know this too well. That is why in Pietermaritzburg they very quickly jettisoned the prodigal Zanele Hlatshwayo and replaced her entire team.

We know too well that Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo hung on dearly to his job, blamed by his own comrades who wanted him out for, among other things, his handling of the prepaid water meters fiasco in Soweto.

Mantashe himself has been quoted as saying the DA does not expect to win Johannesburg, that is why it is fielding a “16-year-old”, referring to Mmusi Maimane (30). Mantashe acknowledges it matters who the candidate is.

The ANC’s silence on mayors means it wants us to trust it and buy a pig in a sack with the only guarantee that it is painted black, green and gold.

I doubt if such a transaction would’ve passed muster with the new Consumer Protection Act.

With regard to whether we are oppositionist, what should matter is whether what we say is true and if it makes sense.

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