The loud clamouring begins

2013-06-12 00:00

LISTENING to the clamour around the Democratic Alliance’s latest tactics to get voters’ attention, one could easily have been led to believe that the operations are like golf, a gentleman’s game where you keep your own scorecard and personal integrity is assumed.

Unfortunately, it is not. It is a dirty game where your opponents will exaggerate your shortcomings and minimise their own, even if this is done by distorting the truth.

And so it was when the DA decided to shake the political tree a bit by buying MTN airtime vouchers and branding them with the party name and propaganda.

The DA was not done. Last week, it donated R1 million to court efforts to force the National Road Agency not to toll some Gauteng highways.

Then, former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela, now proving herself a DA stalwart, bought piglets for communities in that province.

The ANC called these moves “political opportunism”, “vote buying” and “swine politics”.

At about the same time, ANC supporters were hurling bags of human faeces at Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s motorcade as she moved around Cape Town townships.

They blamed the mayor for the fact that they, black Capetonians, are still subjected to bucket toilets, and said that this is proof that the DA-led Western Cape government is racist. To vote for this party in next year’s general elections would, therefore, be a vote for racism.

The DA reacted more or less like the ANC had, accusing the faecal brigade of cheap politicking.

Of course, these were acts of political opportunism. Where in the world have you seen politicians who are not opportunistic? As they say, politics is war by other means, and all is fair in love and war.

The ANC’s own response was an act of political opportunism. It is trite that come election time, the ANC has a tendency to conflate party and state, and allow for the impression that social-security grants are an example of the party’s generosity, rather than state policy that will not change, regardless of who is in power.

Political parties’ penchant for selective morality and political opportunism will continue until there are some rules of engagement, something like the Geneva Convention on political warfare.

Even in the fierce world of advertising, one brand knows how far it can go in promoting itself without stepping outside of the rules of engagement.

With South Africa heading for its fifth democratic elections, and the first in which the born-frees will be taking part, it is inevitable that the contestation will be fierce, and possibly even violent.

Unfortunately, we have a history in this country where political differences have been known to be settled by might, rather than by the force of a better argument.

Once the votes have been cast and the various politicians deployed by their parties, the hatred and antagonism will remain with the everyday people.

It is imperative that the Independent Electoral Commission calls all registered political parties, as well as non-political community-based organisations such as faith communities, to put together terms that draw the line between robust and belligerent politics.

We have been there before, and unless it is arrested early, bellicose politics can lead to massive death and destruction. We have been there and it was a place too horrible to want to revisit.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and a former editor of The Witness.

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