Most citizens can now see through the ANC's smokescreen - expert

2016-04-18 09:50
(Genevieve Quintal, News24)

(Genevieve Quintal, News24)

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Port Elizabeth –The ANC can no longer keep fooling South Africans because even the modestly educated citizen can see through the smokescreen, an expert said on Sunday.

The ANC’s failure to fill up the 46 000-seater Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at its elections manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth at the weekend has been highly criticised.

Instead of the 100 000 expected supporters, only 42 000 supporters turned up, managing to fill two-thirds of the stadium.

While President Jacob Zuma and the top five received a thunderous welcome some supporters reportedly started walking out of the stadium while Zuma was speaking.

Others reportedly didn’t even bother going into the stadium, choosing to have a good time outside of the stadium while their president highlighted the gains made by the party and the challenges that the party was facing.

The party has blamed the poor turnout on logistics but Professor Susan Booysen, of the Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management said the excuse was unacceptable.

“They have been packing stadiums all these years without having logistical nightmares. They have never come this short in the 22 years of power, this is a serious change.”

Zuma’s credibility damaged

Booysen said the change in the numbers could have been caused by two things; that the number of supporters had gone down or poor organising.

“While this [failing to fill the stadium] seems insignificant, in politics the consequences are enormous. The ANC thinks that the nation is an idiot but even the most uneducated South African is astute, they can see what is happening, they can see through the smokescreen.”

But she said the ANC was very good at reminding South Africans of the painful past.

“They will remind people of the oppression, racism and ask them to close ranks against those that seek to threaten the gains made by the liberation movement.”

Booysen said there was nothing new in Zuma’s speech which touched on issues of education, water and sanitation, access to health and the supply of electricity.

“We heard most of what he said five years ago. For example he gave a new strategy about selecting councillors back then but it was never implemented. He said councillors could not do business with the state but he failed to say the president was prevented from doing business with national government.”

She said it did not matter what Zuma said to the nation, his credibility was already damaged.

“Even if he read a speech written by the best speechwriter in the world, it still wouldn’t have made a difference. The ANC will only change when it starts hurting the most and that is at the polls,” said Booysen.

Fetishisation of ‘full stadia’

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir disagreed with Booysen, saying attendance does not mean anything.

“People are busy and have things to do. I'm deeply discomforted by the fetishisation of ‘full stadia’, singing, dancing and cheering. It’s too close to the trope of the ‘happy, singing, dancing, clapping’ native. Please don’t reduce society to that. It’s racist, bigoted and patronising.”

Fakir said Zuma’s speech itself was excellent, but was delivered by “the wrong guy”.

“It is unfortunate that the speech was poorly delivered and delivered by the wrong guy. I think they found themselves in a conundrum because, as the president, he could not avoid speaking about the Constitution.”

Fakir said Zuma addressed some very important and substantial things and there was a mix of politics, policy and governance. “There wasn’t mere and simple rhetoric…”

He said there had been a measure of success under the ANC rule and as people’s lives changed for the better the greater their votes will differ.

He said it was a genuine and brave attempt by the ANC to reconnect with its constituency.

“I think the ANC’s biggest worry should be voter turnout, not filling up stadiums. Their problem at the moment is ethical governance at the top level,” he said.

Constitution contradictions

During launch Zuma reminded supporters the importance of the Constitution, saying that the party was guided by the Constitution to improve the quality of life of the people.

This was contrary to the party’s response to a recent damning Constitutional Court against its president. The court ruled that that Zuma flouted the Constitution when he ignored Public Protector Thuli Madondela's remedial action on the non-security upgrades done at his Nkandla private home. The party has closed ranks around Zuma saying it had accepted the ruling and chose to forgive Zuma. It has also ignored growing calls for Zuma to resign.

In his speech, Zuma also expressed his concern about the high level of unemployment among the young people and said that it remained one of the party’s top priorities.

"It is of concern to the ANC that many of our people, especially the youth, are sitting at home doing nothing because the economy is not growing fast enough to create much needed jobs."

"The ANC has a concrete plan in place to respond to the slow growth and create jobs. Our municipalities, guided by the National Development Plan, will place job creation and sustainable livelihoods at the centre of their local economic programmes," Zuma said.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  port elizabeth  |  local elections 2016  |  politics

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