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Tough choices await voters in 2019

2018-11-27 12:04
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Getty Images/ Gallo Images

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The electorate will have to deeply reflect on the state of race relations in the country. Almost 25 years into our democracy, South Africa remains afflicted by racism and racial inequality, writes Mokgethi Nkosi.

The general elections of 2019 look set to be the most contested since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

The emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its growing appeal to the youth demographic is likely to present a challenge to both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA). Current indications are that the next elections will be hard fought.

Disappointingly, it does not appear as if voters will be served with a buffet of choices on policy matters. Though nominally different from the ruling party, the EFF is largely in agreement with the ANC on most policy questions. What differences exist can be regarded as a mere difference in emphasis.

On the other hand, the DA seems at a loss to define a convincing policy platform distinct from merely raising questions about corruption and accountability. Seemingly the party largely agrees with the ANC's policy thrust, bar on questions of race and empowerment.

In the circumstances, the electorate will have to decide who to vote for based on an honest assessment of the barrage of election manifestos that will soon be inflicted on the public. Such an assessment must carefully consider questions of leadership, ethics and socio-economic conditions.

Tragically, the electorate will also have to deeply reflect on the state of race relations in the country. Almost 25 years into our democracy, South Africa remains afflicted by racism and racial inequality. At the current rate it appears none of the leading political parties have found an elixir to the problem. 

The ANC of President Cyril Ramaphosa is working desperately to rehabilitate the image of the party from years of abuse by Jacob Zuma and his cohort. Ramaphosa has attempted, unsuccessfully thus far, to position the ANC as a party going back to its glorious past. Except, the party continues to tolerate compromised leaders in its ranks.

The recent Cabinet reshuffle demonstrates that the ruling party is willing to tolerate ministers who are deeply flawed and who have been cited in corruption and maladministration. This contradiction reflects the conflicted character of the party and the influence that the unsavoury elements continue to wield.

The EFF on the other hand, is beset by perceptions of questionable ethics, populism and impracticable policy positions. It is concerning to witness the level of intolerance that the EFF has displayed when confronted with criticism, either by the media or political foes. The toxic response to Pravin Gordhan's presence at the state capture enquiry was a chilling display of balderdash and hubris.

Knowingly and falsely accusing Gordhan's daughter of unethical conduct in her business dealings is a display of the worst form of moral bankruptcy. Perhaps the EFF is running short on answers for the critical policy questions to which South African are yearning for answers. The less said about the EFF leadership's entanglement in the VBS Mutual Bank heist the better.  

The DA seems to have reached an inflection point. Since February 2018, the party seems to have completely run out of ideas. Ramaphosa and his "new dawn" messaging has sucker punched the party into a state of internal conflict, policy disjuncture and downright pettiness.

In recent months the party has not been able to build and sustain a coherent narrative about its value proposition for South African voters. Minus Jacob Zuma, Mmusi Maimane and the entire DA leadership have been found wanting on key policy debates including land expropriation without compensation, black economic empowerment and general questions of racism.

Perhaps reflecting the dominance of white males in the party's national leadership structure, the DA has found it difficult to articulate positions that have a broader appeal to the black masses. So far, there is nothing in the DA's pronouncements about South Africa's socio-economic conditions that appeals to the most downtrodden in our society.

Certainly, an equal opportunity society does nothing for a high school dropout in QwaQwa. The platform of anti-corruption resonates less with disgruntled ANC voters who seem willing to give Ramaphosa's ANC a chance. The fallout from the Patricia de Lille saga has exposed the duplicity of the party in dealing with its black members and constituencies. 

The general elections are certainly going to be the most interesting one in our young democracy, not for what is on offer but for the absence of any credible solutions to South Africa's intractable challenges.  

- Mokgethi Nkosi is a regulatory and stakeholder engagement officer at Frontline Africa Advisory.

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Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  election  |  politics

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