Anneke Scheepers

You’re not tired of our politics, you’re tired of the ANC

2017-08-01 13:27
ANC flag at the party's national policy conference. (Video screengrab)

ANC flag at the party's national policy conference. (Video screengrab)

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To say that South Africans are tired of politics is a misrepresentation of what is unfolding in our country. 

Many of us are indeed exhausted but it is endemic corruption and state capture that is to blame. We are tired of this looming sense of powerlessness in the face of issues that seem to be bigger than what we are. That said however, we can’t confuse being tired of corruption with being tired of politics. 

People are tired of the ANC acting in its own interest and we mustn’t be apologist or try to downplay this.

In certain corners of our public discourse, we hear how tired South Africans are of politics and that they want something different. In the same vein, one sometimes hears the promotion of civil society movements as a solution in that those movements are not ‘political’ and therefore better.

This is a muddying that needs clarification:

To talk about and try to influence how we interact in society is inherently political. There is almost endless room for civic organisations and social movements but the role that they play is ultimately political because they try and influence how we organise society. This is politics as it deals with structure and power, in the form of authority. 

People are political because people are concerned with how our lives, and ultimately how whole societies, are organised. We are concerned with who should be making key decisions, in our interest as ‘the people’.

‘Politics’ in and of itself is an essential function of our existence. 

While it is undeniable that many South Africans do indeed feel disillusioned, they feel that way because of the regard that they hold for the Republic and the constitutional democracy that organises it. The problem that plagues our Republic is not ‘politics’ but rather corruption – ANC corruption to be exact. 

People are feeling powerless in the face of corruption that has escalated to heights beyond what anyone could have imagined as recently as five years ago. Let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s understand that there are solutions to this problem but none of these solutions would emanate from mislabelling politics. 

It can be likened to when the ANC says that those who want it out of office are calling for a regime change. This is a remarkable notion because the ANC is not ‘the regime’ they are a political party that is governing key institutions within a democratic regime. 

Saying in broad strokes that South Africans are tired of politics threatens to be a cover up for the reality that we are tired of being ignored. South Africans have been organising and marching against state capture, yet there is little action by the political party that is responsible for it. That is what is tiring South Africans. When we say that we have had enough of corruption, why is there such failure to root it out?

It is indeed tiring to hold onto the ideal of our constitutional democracy in the face of a brazen and unrelenting assault in the form of corruption and lack of accountability. 

What else could we expect when we started off so well? We had a peaceful revolution and managed to transition to a democratic system without the sort of conflict that took place in similar transitions elsewhere on the continent.

It is clear that the work is only just beginning. Doing the work of turning things around will indeed require that every actor plays their part, civil and social movements as well. However, let’s not become side tracked with the idea that being tired of the ANC is the same as being tired of the work of saving our country.

- Anneke Scheepers is a former Politics and Cultural Studies lecturer and is currently the DA's Gauteng Communications Manager. She writes in her personal capacity.

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