Max du Preez

SA’s democracy a juvenile delinquent

2015-02-24 08:15

Max du Preez

South Africa’s democracy comes of age in four weeks’ time. Well, only technically, because it will be 21 years old, not because it’s become mature.

If the behaviour of politicians in Parliament and the Western Cape and Gauteng provincial legislatures is a yardstick, our democracy is still a juvenile delinquent.

With our bitter history and complex demography we should at least have built a strong middle ground over the last 21 years; a basic, broad consensus of the centre.

We were well on our way during the first decade after 1994. Then we started faltering, and in December 2007 we stumbled, never to get going again.

That was the occasion where the ANC fell back on its baser instincts as a liberation movement in the bush: the Polokwane conference where Jacob Zuma was used as a battering ram to topple Thabo Mbeki and the sluice gates of cheap populism, abuse of power, self enrichment and corruption were opened wide.

A clash of personalities

It was there that the embryo of Economic Freedom Fighters was formed, even though Julius Malema then still swore that he would kill for Zuma.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Two years after the formation of the EFF it is clear that the party is merely a more populist version of the ANC, born out of a power struggle and a clash of personalities.

Both parties now compete to be regarded as the real custodian of the Freedom Charter - not the constitution of 1996, but a 60 year-old document.

(The 1955 Charter contains pleas for the abolition of farm jails and Bantu Advisory Boards and declares that “people should not be robbed of their cattle”.)

The recent revelations and allegations of Malema’s abuse of power and of party funds and his manipulation of appointments and elections further prove that he is Zuma’s political offspring.

ANC and EFF merger?

It was telling that the ANC in the Western Cape Legislature last week copied the EFF’s tactics in Parliament.

Two days after Marius Fransman and his troops thwarted the premier’s state of the province address through meaningless points of order, absurd statements and bad behaviour, the deputy leader of the SACP and deputy minister Jeremy Cronin wrote that the EFF had behaved exactly like the Nazi minority in the German Reichstag in 1928. The EFF, writes Cronin, wants to destroy the parliamentary system from within using its own methods, using tactics like “spurious points of order”. Well, there you have it.

The SACP’s burning hatred of the EFF stems from the fact that the EFF now parades as being more socialist than the SACP and can use Marxist rhetoric much more freely.

I wouldn’t have said this a few months ago, but today it looks likely to me that the EFF will eventually merge with the ANC. Andile Mngxitama, who was fired as an EFF MP last week (and, unlike his former colleagues, was never an ANC member) says he has proof that such talks of toenadering are already happening.

This doesn’t mean the two parties will soon start sucking up to each other (although Zuma did that during his response to the state of the nation address, after Malema called him a “hooligan president”). It is normal to play hardball during negotiations.

If the ANC ends up with less than half of the votes in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth at next year’s local election, coalition governments between the ANC and EFF are definitely on the cards.

Tree of Polokwane

The scary thought is that the ANC and EFF together represent 68% of representation in Parliament, which technically means they could change the constitution.

This would probably be an EFF precondition for a merger, especially concerning the constitutional guarantees of the sanctity of private property.

We live the shadow of the Tree of Polokwane.

We should chop down that tree and remove its roots.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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