Prince Mashele

Celebrating in sobriety

2009-04-28 12:34

Prince Mashele

Congratulations to the winners and sorry to losers! The good thing about April 22 is that the top three political parties have all won, the ANC, DA and Cope. Unfortunately, the losers are smaller parties.

While the ANC has failed to secure a two-thirds majority, it has still performed beyond expectations. We should not forget that we are dealing with a party that has gone through a turbulent 2008. It fired a State president, two provincial premiers and some of its prominent leaders left to form Cope.

While dealing with all this, the party also had to rush in and out of courtrooms in support of its leader who faced criminal charges. Yet the ANC still managed to secure 65.90% of the national vote and remains the ruling party in all provinces but the Western Cape. We can thus conclude that the ANC won against all odds. Congratulations ANC!

Although squeezed between the ANC and Cope, the DA still managed to secure 16.66% of the national vote, which is a substantial improvement from 12% in 2004. You love or hate the DA, this party has done a good job. They ran an effective campaign and implemented a working strategy.

Thanks to the short-sightedness of the ANC in dealing with its internal politics in the Western Cape, the DA is now able to form a provincial government without the assistance of other parties in that province.

South Africans will now have an opportunity to compare the performance of provinces run by the ruling party with a province governed by an opposition party. Congratulations DA!

Cause of death

Formed only four months ago, Cope scored 7.42% of the national vote and secured a position as an official opposition party in five provinces. No party formed after 1994 has ever broken this record. All parties launched post-apartheid failed to secure a mere 5% of the national vote.

There are those who believe that if Cope did not introduce Mvume Dandala late in the day, they would have performed even better. Well, this is speculative; we only need to look at what they have achieved. Congratulations Cope!

Let us all cry with smaller parties. While leaders of small parties kicked and screamed in defence of their parties during campaigns, voters have been merciless in ignoring the shrill of the desperate voices of the PAC, Azapo, UDM, ID and others.

When political doctors perform a post-mortem, they are likely to locate the cause of death in two parts of the body of small parties: (1) the failure to fashion a modern political outlook and (2) an inability to grow beyond the founder leader of the party.

The first cause of death affects mainly parties such as the PAC and Azapo. Apart from the leader of the PAC looking like a pity-deserving fellow, the party is still stuck in the old conception of Africanism, an anachronistic conception of Africanism fixated on the thirst for land for the sake of land. Even if you were to give the PAC land, it remains unclear what exactly they would do with it - let alone the question: do they have the capacity to do anything with land?

On its part, Azapo is yet to make black consciousness a phenomenon that is relevant to post-apartheid South Africa. Steve Biko played his part in our history, and it remains for Azapo to play its particular role in our politics today. Let our collective hero, Steve Biko, rest in peace and please, Azapo, tell us why you deserve to be our electoral heroes today!

The political tactic of waving past flags is fast losing its appeal. Voters ask a simple question: if we vote for you, what will you do for us, and do you have the capacity to deliver on your promises, full stop! This is how brutal the voting station is!

IFP needs to be rescued

As for the ID and UDM, you need not put on your pince-nez to tell that both parties are in a coffin waiting to be buried. Since they broke onto our political scene, they have moved in reverse in their attempts to garner votes.

Ironically, the enemies of the UDM and ID are their own leaders. Close your eyes and imagine the two parties: who do you see? Do you see any credible and high-profile leaders other than the founder leaders of the two parties? If you do, congratulations!

It would indeed be unfair to ignore a party that got position four in the national vote, the IFP. The IFP has secured 4.55% of the national vote and 22.40% in Kwazulu-Natal. Nationally, the party has done well, although it remains a sick patient in the intestine care unit (ICU) panting for its life. The tragedy of the IFP is that the older its leader gets, the more senile the party becomes. In other words, the party needs to be rescued from its own leader.

Furthermore, it is the IFP's reliance on Zulu nationalism that explains the victory of the ANC in KZN. A universalist Zulu had the following question to answer before placing a cross: do I want a Zulu to become South Africa's president or do I what to prevent the death of a Zulu nationalist party? Well, let's wait and see if the IFP will come out of the ICU alive or if it will, like the ID and UDM, jump into the coffin for a quick burial.

This said, it is advisable for all of us to tone down our faith in elections. In his seminal book, In Defence of Lost Causes, theorist Slavoj Zizek reminds us: "Fully 'rational' elections would not be elections at all, but a transparent objectivised process."

Herein lies our individual and collective foolishness in attempting to attach a modicum of wisdom to the X we placed next to the party of our choice - even as we all agree that democracy is a better model of governance.

The magical X

Thus, the joy generated by our individual X should not create the illusion that the unemployed will suddenly have jobs. Neither should the X delude us into believing that those retrenched since the beginning of the global economic crisis will go back to their positions of employment, nor should the X hypnotise us into thinking that corruption will disappear in government or society.

Indeed, one wonders how has the X suddenly come to possess such magic that it will, by osmosis, make the public service work better and cause manna to fall from our good Lord in Heaven.

So, as we congratulate winners and cry with losers, we should not allow politicians to make us believe that, tomorrow, we will wake up in Utopia when, yester night, we slept in biblical Egypt.

All we need to do is to congratulate the ones who are in and sympathise with those who are out - and hope that the politicians who are in will remember to throw crumbs society's direction.

Mashele is Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He writes in his personal capacity.

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