Ralph Mathekga

The ANC's war against integrity and honest politics

2017-01-30 08:45

If you thought the 2016 local government elections brought the worst out of our politicians, wait for the 2019 general elections which are approaching much faster than any elections before.

The chilling revelations of the allegations that the ANC employed a “war room” to win over the public opinion ahead of the local government elections in 2016 is an indication that given an opportunity to lie or fix something that is wrong, political parties would most likely opt to lie.

This is because the idea of fixing real problems on the ground seems more demanding than employing some amateurish public relations tactics based on misinformation about the opposition political parties. Indeed the once mighty, unassailable ANC is at war, but it’s at war against integrity and honest politics.

As it’s coming out, the allegations are that the ANC sought to capture public opinion by feeding misinformation about opposition parties as a way to get a step ahead in the 2016 local government elections. Engaging in a negative campaign to discredit one’s political opponents is nothing new; it is a tactic that is widely used around the world. In countries such as Britain, America and Australia, for example, election campaigns are dominated by negative campaigns where political adversaries often pay for adverts against each other.

The opposition parties in South Africa engage in negative campaigning as well. If you have any doubt about this, just ask any member of the opposition to try to spend a day without badmouthing the ANC. This is unfortunately the state of global politics. It’s the state of misinformation!

What interests me about the alleged ANC “war room” is the idea that the party seems to be willing to invest in the process of fabricating lies and misinformation. This means that the ANC does not believe that the roots of its problems lie in its poor record of service delivery or the fact that some of the party’s leaders have become unashamedly corrupt.

The ANC seems to believe that its main problem is actually a matter of poor public relations; something that needs a public relations guru to sort out. Like any half-baked idea, this did not work and the party performed poorly in the 2016 local government elections.

What worries me is that the stakes are going to be even higher for the ANC in 2019. The party for the first time should see the possibility of losing the next province to the opposition. There is a real possibility that the ANC’s majority will be further reduced to a point where the party might need opposition parties to pass legislation in Parliament.

My fear is that the reality of an upset in the 2019 elections might push the ANC to finally get things right by employing more qualified people with tried and tested experience in lying to the general public. The “war room” project, as it is alleged, seems to have only attracted amateur inexperienced individuals who did a bad job. Luckily, South Africans could count on the ANC’s bad record in paying service providers to blow the whole story open.

Some among the leadership of the ANC might bring in more capable “partners” who can actually deliver on shaping the public opinions through misinformation. The first candidates for this type of job would be the Russians, who are credited to have had a hand in orchestrating Donald Trump’s inexplicable electoral victory.

There is no doubt that some within the ANC draw inspiration from Vladimir Putin, a man who continues to survive politically despite not being so popular among Russians. If the ANC enlists the Russians, consider it mission accomplished!

My suspicion with the possible Russian hand in South African politics is also based on the observation that they might have a stake in the elections results; if not already having a stake in the internal processes of the ANC.

If it gets to this, it would make the 2016 “war room” look like a picnic; a mere braai outing. It will get South Africa to introduce a new concept in the state capture debate. We will then be talking about the “Russian capture”. That would be a more complex capture, even worse than the indigenous capture by the so-called “white monopoly capital”, etc. 

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    war room  |  anc
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