This is not the year to vote out the ANC

2014-01-19 10:00

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Once a year, I take a drive of just over 879km from KwaZulu-Natal to my home village of Schoonoord in the Sekhukhune District of Limpopo.

The journey is an experience as I go through KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.

As I travel this distance, I can see how profoundly my country has changed. As I drive, I can appreciate its natural beauty and farming excellence. The mountains, farms, animals, changes in altitude and terrain all add to my experience.

When I get home, I lose all my titles. I become “Morwa Makgoba” or “Poki”, as I have been known all along. I stop speaking English and speak Pedi.

It’s a time to enjoy my language and learn about my traditions and identity with family and friends.

The changes in my village since 1994 are breathtaking. The roads are tarred, the village has electricity, clean running water, a clinic, crèche and pensioners who receive their pensions timeously.

Both young and old have seen and experienced these changes in their lifetimes. Of course, like many others, theirs is not a perfect world, but one that has changed for the better and still needs improvements.

These proud transformations and opportunities are the work of the ANC government.

There have been significant developments in most rural areas. Here President Jacob Zuma launches a project to electrify the village of Mushiyani in Limpopo in 2009. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena/Beeld

Our democracy will be 20 years old on April 27. It is a milestone. A lot is being said, speculated on and discussed on various platforms by analysts. In general, it is seen as a critical period to take stock and reflect on the experience and lessons of our democracy.

As we approach this milestone, a group of small opposition parties has emerged?–?Agang, Cope, EFF and PAP to list a few.

They join the first-generation opposition parties such as Azapo, ACDP, APC, DA, IFP, FF, PAC, UCDP and NFP. All these parties have a few worrying, undemocratic features in common.

The death of our founding president is a stark reminder of how his generation struggled for the noble cause of a “free democratic, nonsexist, nonracial, diverse and equitable society”.

There is no doubt that the ANC is experiencing many problems?–?alleged poor service delivery, cronyism, corruption, leadership, lack of integrity (articulated statements and individual conduct do not match), the complacency of incumbency and, at times, arrogance and a failure to deal with wayward members.

It has struggled with adjusting from a liberation movement culture to the culture of a governing political party, not simply to be in power but to govern a sophisticated, politically conscious and diverse society.

In South Africa, unlike in the US, we elect a party and not the leader.

So what are the options for the electorate? Very little, but to return the ANC back into power.

In essence, two forces have created the crossroads in our democracy?–?a weak, disorganised, individualistic opposition and the sins of prolonged incumbency without a serious challenge.

A clear message must be given to the ANC to sort out its many internal struggles and focus on leadership in the image of our founding struggle heroes.

The ANC must take bold and uncomfortable decisions, particularly about governance and ill-discipline among its deployed cadres. A failure to improve or change course must have serious consequences. Civil society must continue its vigilance and hold the ruling party to account.

However, this is neither the time to contemplate removing the ANC government nor to give it less support.

The consequences of ditching or giving the ANC less support can only be dire?–?political and economic instability and chaos, more poverty, inequality, unemployment, a weakened (failed) state and leadership, and a deterioration in global confidence in African leadership. We must jealously guard against this.

All the visible positive gains achieved and experienced by rural villages like Schoonoord under the ANC government will be under threat or will be reversed. Is that what we want out of the next election? I suspect not.

It is more risky and perilous to be governed and led by “cult-like” figures. As long as the opposition continues to be disorganised, the saying that “the ANC will rule until Jesus comes back” will come true. Our poor-quality opposition is forcing our nation to become a one-party state.

I am neither advocating for a single-party state nor am I saying that the ANC is perfect.

Firstly, the ANC government deserves reward and more support for the solid democratic foundation it has laid and for saving us from apartheid’s economic ruin.

Secondly, I encourage opposition parties to take politics seriously and in the best interests of the nation and its future, rather than the current individualism, provincialism or prevailing “privileged’” ethnic and racist attitudes existing in some of them.

Thirdly, we need to prevent opposition leaders who are simply seeking a legitimate opportunity through the ballot box to loot the state or gain instant fame and wealth.

The evidence-based success story that South Africa is today is the work and outcome of the ANC government. Let us not destroy but build and consolidate on the solid foundations, and gains of freedom and democracy, laid by the 20 years of ANC government. Let us use this milestone election wisely.

»?Professor Makgoba is the vice-chancellor and principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal

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