The “Sidikiwe! Vukani! Vote No!” campaign has unleashed a flurry of responses from various stakeholders. South Africans must not be fooled by false information on what the meaning of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid was about. It gives a sense of repulsion to hear senior members of the ruling party reducing the struggle of South Africans against the ‘twin evils of colonialism and apartheid’ to have been about voting. This is a reckless interpretation from the oldest liberation movement in Africa. This is why the ‘radical’ interpretation of the struggle by the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) remains relevant.
One PAC leader once said “we went to the trenches for land” and he further implied that democracy was meant to be a bonus. This interpretation is important in that it locates the essence of dispossession suffered by Africans in this country at the hands of Europeans. What Africans lost was land, dignity and the power to rule over their own land. What Africans suffered was economic deprivation. The 1994 breakthrough was meant to deliver on the undoing of such a dilapidating legacy that robbed Africans of an opportunity to exercise their minds, talents and skills freely without discrimination based on their colour. The struggle was about restoring land and economic control of the wealth beneath it to its rightful owners in a decisive manner.
The “Vote No!” campaigners (who are led by ANC stalwarts) must be bold enough to admit that the biggest problem is that the ANC – even under their watch – failed to deliver on the liberation imperatives. To tell us that our forefathers lost their lives for voting – something that was never taken away from them on the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in April 1652 – trivializes their sacrifices. That infamous arrival of Europeans marked the beginning of the looting of our natural resources, the killing of our ancestors in pursuit of land dominance and the suffering of indignity as our forbearers were stripped of their wealth, culture, heritage and subsequently they were subjugated. The ANC has managed to keep this legacy alive in the contours that make up the South African society.
Whilst corruption is an important concern that derails the developmental agenda as well as the spirit of integrity within society, it is important to be honest about our biggest failure in the past 20 years of democracy. We must VOTE NO to the continued preservation of the structural makeup of colonialism and apartheid. Police are able to kill people in service delivery protests and gun down 34 mineworkers in front of international media – without anyone taking responsibility – because of an inherited apartheid culture of policing.
This apartheid culture continues to permeate the police structures 20-years into our democracy, whereby the life of citizens is not well valued by police. This is the failure of the ANC government to not have led a strong Cultural Revolution and project of consciousness to shift mindsets and build new value systems within public institutions. It takes more than just hanging a “Batho Pele” poster on the walls of public institutions.
Corruption persists because we have failed to create a conscious citizenry that demands accountability from public servants. Once the citizens become uncaring and indifferent on how public institutions are run, it gives an opportunity to those with long fingers to stick their hands in the cookie jar and steal from the public purse. Our watchdog role as citizens is highly nonexistent and if we do not correct this, no matter what party goes into power, we will continue to struggle with corruption because it has now become ingrained to the culture of running public institutions. For as long as we allow society in general to lose its morality bearings, we will continue to breed public servants that are corrupt as they would be products of a society devoid of integrity.
Therefore, the major lack of boldness from the “Vote No!” campaign is that it fails to locate correctly that the problem with the ANC is not just only the exacerbation of corruption under the leadership of Jacob Zuma. The problem is that the ANC has in the past 20-years failed to show that it is capable of making bold decisions to undo the legacies of colonialism and apartheid. Even if corruption were to end tomorrow, the preservation of the legacies of colonialism and apartheid under the current ruling party would continue to reel their ugly heads in our society.
Given that, the leaders of this campaign are ANC stalwarts who have also served in government; it is understandable as to why they lack this boldness as it might implicate them as failures too. Yet, there is nothing as precious as a human being who admits to his or her mistakes and begins to chart a new way. That is what wisdom is – the ability to learn and rectify mistakes. Wisdom is not dogmatism and fundamentalism – whereby even when stared with the facts of ANC failures one continues to go headstrong to vote for the party or continues to indirectly protect it.
Lastly, all campaigns need to be measurable and purpose driven. The “Vote No!” campaign has a two-pronged message, whereby voters are motivated to vote either against the ANC and the DA or to spoil their ballot papers altogether. Therefore we can determine that the target market for this campaign are those ANC voters who have become delusional (rightfully so) with the party and those voters who are undecided and stay away from the polls in any case.
Therefore, what is the purpose of this campaign? Is it to reduce the percentage of the ANC enough for the ANC to remain in power but not enough for the ANC to remain arrogant? Is it a given that an ANC in power (without a change in leadership and thinking) with a reduced power base will suddenly govern this country differently? I beg to differ. What Kasrils and Madlala-Routledge are not bold enough to do is to de-campaign the ANC out of power – they simply provide it with a cushion not to fall too hard despite its indiscretions over the years with governing the country. Therefore, the impact of the campaign cannot be measurable if it is not attempting to have a decisive drive to see a change of government.
This campaign would be powerful if its purpose were to attempt to count the number of spoilt ballot papers that can be associated with the campaign. Upon this, the campaigners would then send out a national call for all those who spoilt their ballot papers due to not seeing a party that resonates with their desires for South Africa to attend a national dialogue. In that dialogue the people who heeded the call of the campaign would have to dig deep and propose solutions and a way forward – even founding a political party to contest 2019 elections if need be. This would have been a bold move from the campaigners. However, the campaigners do not wish to see an ANC that is not governing South Africa, they wish to see an ANC that does so with a reduced majority in Parliament. This is no bold and decisive campaign for the benefit of the country.
The “Vote No!” campaigners are disgruntled sympathizers of the ANC. They do not want to see the ANC leave power; they want it to get a wakeup call. Such a campaign is destructive and regressive. South Africans need a bold conversation about a new governing party that will deliver on liberation imperatives and lift citizens from the slump of inequality, poor education, poverty and unemployment. Let us be bold enough to admit that the ANC has run its course and is and will not be able to rebuild itself to the desirable political party that this country deserves to be led by.
This article first appeared on News24 Voices.
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