Guest Column

Beware the well-meaning zealot

2018-11-29 10:39
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the National Assembly. (Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images, file)

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the National Assembly. (Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images, file)

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The reality is that a vote for Cyril Ramaphosa is a vote for the ANC, which is a vote for more corruption and incompetence. If voters reward poor performance with re-election, they should expect continued poor performance, writes Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Former ANC MP Melanie Verwoerd continues to preach the "stronger mandate" gospel with zeal, according to which (if taken to its logical conclusion) we must all vote for the ANC in 2019 to give Cyril Ramaphosa the mandate he needs to really fix the ANC. 

Of the many flaws in this argument, one flaw stands out as being fatal. The reality is that voters can't vote for Ramaphosa. It is impossible. South Africa's electoral system is one of proportional representation (PR). Voters can only vote for parties, not individuals. So the only way to "vote for Ramaphosa" is to vote for the ANC. And when you vote for the ANC, you get the ANC. Caveat emptor. 

In our PR electoral system, Ramaphosa's mandate comes exclusively from the ANC's national executive committee (NEC). As we have seen twice before, the NEC can withdraw this mandate without any reference to the voters at all. Just ask Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. This is the same NEC that kept Zuma in power for nine tortuous years of rampant looting and destruction, and only removed him when it became clear that sticking by him would have disastrous electoral consequences. The "Zuma years" of which Verwoerd speaks are more accurately the "ANC years".

Consider the lesson in that. The ANC was forced to "save itself" when it faced electoral doom. That is actually no surprise in a democracy – indeed, that's how it is supposed to work. Stiff electoral competition forces better conduct and reform. Accountability is the essence of democracy.

Verwoerd argues we should turn this lesson on its head, and do the opposite, in the vain hope that rewarding bad government will convince the ANC to improve. It won't. This is, respectfully, not the wise course of action for anyone who has the country's interests at heart. 

The reality is that a vote for Ramaphosa is a vote for the ANC, which is a vote for more corruption and incompetence. If voters reward poor performance with re-election, they should expect continued poor performance.

The hard, cold reality is that voting for the ANC means rewarding it for: bankrupting Eskom, SAA, Transnet, SABC and in fact SA itself; growing unemployment from 3.7 million jobless in 1994 to 9.8 million jobless today; an 80% illiteracy rate amongst 10-year-olds; R500bn lost to state capture; and an economic recession.

But let's set that fatal flaw aside for now. Then the argument rests on the notion that Ramaphosa will fix our economy and will fight corruption. This belief springs from blind hope rather than evidence.

The evidence is that Ramaphosa is not prepared to commit to the deep reforms required for the economy to grow. Because unions form the ANC's core support base, fixing our basic education system by confronting Sadtu, reducing our bloated public sector wage bill by confronting public sector unions, and liberalising our restrictive labour legislation are all strictly off limits. So our inside/outsider economy with its unnaturally high unemployment rate will remain intact.

Most legislation going through Parliament under Ramaphosa's watch is leading towards greater state-led interventionism rather than towards a freer economy. Expropriation without compensation, the one-size-fits-all national minimum wage, the Competition Amendment Bill, the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, the NHI Bill – all serve to put more power in the state's hands and will all obstruct economic growth and job creation.

It is no coincidence that October 2018 saw record capital flight from our shores. Investors, unlike political commentators, prefer hard evidence to blind hope.

On corruption, despite much lip service, there has still not been a single arrest of any person involved in the capture and looting of Eskom and Transnet, or their handlers inside the ANC. The NPA are letting the Guptas get away with the Estina Dairy scandal. Ramaphosa is still making the public pay for Zuma's legal defence costs, despite it being within his power to cancel this irrational deal now. 

Then there is the matter of a R500 000 payment by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson into a fund for Ramaphosa's election campaign, and the fishy business relationship between Bosasa and Ramaphosa's son, Andile. 

The reality is that for as long as the ANC is in power, South Africa will be held hostage to the ANC's toxic internal politics, their endemic corruption and their track record of failure.  

Another reality is that South Africa's PR voting system enables voters to both protest against bad performance and pick a better alternative. The DA leads in every single metric of good governance – job creation, clean government, fiscal responsibility, economic growth, and basic service delivery. 

We have a track record of real delivery, and we have a credible plan to deliver the change that South Africans are hopeful for. 

This election is not about how best to save the ANC. It is about how best to save South Africa from the ANC. That's why voters should beware the folly of the "stronger mandate" zealots, and support the only party building one South Africa for all – the DA. 

- Hill-Lewis is chief of staff in the DA leader's office. 

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:    bosasa  |  da  |  anc  |  estina dairy farm  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  election  |  corruption
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