Ralph Mathekga

3 big political parties offer mediocre prospects for upcoming election

2018-10-29 09:22

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When it comes to the forthcoming national elections, South Africa is headed for a most mediocre outcome.

Let me put it this way: the 2019 elections will most likely fail to bring significant change in the country. This is because South Africa's body politic – and the behaviour of the major political parties – has lost its commitment to the plight of the people and willingness to inspire meaningful change in society.

The three dominant political parties in South Africa (the DA, ANC and EFF) are all embattled in political skirmishes that do not allow them to genuinely engage with the issues that South Africans are confronted with.

Together with the ANC, the EFF is embroiled in the VBS Mutual Bank scandal. Whether or not the parties and its senior members have unduly benefitted from the VBS looting, they cannot be trusted to bring major changes that would ensure that episodes such as this and the Steinhoff fraud do not repeat themselves.

The fact that these parties are implicated in benefitting from the VBS looting shows that they have taken no moral position against corruption.

Despite publicly criticising private sector corruption, the allegations that the EFF and ANC might have benefitted from the VBS looting mean that these parties do not see anything morally wrong in benefitting from corruption, as long as no one is looking. The only change they could bring in relation to corruption is therefore to manage it, and not to eliminate it.

That is the only big change that may come out of the 2019 elections; managing corruption only to ensure that state institutions are somehow functioning. In my world, that is mediocre. South Africa deserves much better than this.

With regard to the DA, the party also belongs to the same mediocre WhatsApp group as the EFF and ANC when it comes to prospects for bringing meaningful change after the 2019 elections.

The DA is currently involved in some pay-as-you-go coalitions to run the Johannesburg and Tshwane municipalities. It remains a mystery what the conditions of these coalitions are and how they are being maintained. The DA's coalition partner in Johannesburg and Tshwane refuses to acknowledge that coalitions even exist. I shall not name this coalition partner here, just so that I honour their fantasy that they are not involved in any coalition with the DA.

The DA has not accounted to anyone as to how the party maintains these coalitions. Poor voters will have to settle for the explanation that the coalitions have been entered into with the sole purpose of fixing potholes.

These coalitions also seem to be surviving on the whims of individual power brochures within the DA, and are not necessarily guided by the party's institutional principles.

Can anyone tell me why the DA-led coalition collapsed in Nelson Mandela Bay while both the Tshwane and Joburg coalitions survive? To me it appears that the coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay is not well lubricated, while in Joburg and Tshwane the partnerships seem to be getting periodic lubrication to get them moving swiftly.

My question is, what is it that political parties are exchanging in these coalitions if they hardly agree on any policy matter? Even worse, are these agreements among political parties or among a few powerful individuals across the party lines?

Has the DA lost control of its senior members who are building their own personal political empires and whose survival threatens the integrity of the party?

The make-believe coalitions that the DA has entered into in various metro municipalities have done more harm to the party than Mmusi Maimane's poor leadership. This is the very same DA that is going into the 2019 elections with an anti-immigration message.

The DA knows very well that there is just no way to raise the question of immigration without risking igniting xenophobia. It decided to abandon its liberal tradition by yielding to the very populist cloak that the party often accuses the ANC and EFF of wearing religiously.

The custodian of liberalism took a populist stance against a VAT increase and topped it up by staging a few marches to show that they can also disrupt whenever they feel insecure as a political party.

With this mediocre message, the DA won't return to politics of principle anytime soon. The party will certainly fix a few potholes here and there; however, it is not in a position to guide this nation towards much needed change in our way of doing things as a society.

Reading from what the party is grappling with now, the DA's agenda can only go as far as managing corruption and bringing about efficiency here and there. As for creative and meaningful change in society, that would be a stretch for the DA, EFF and ANC, respectively.

True leaders should rise against this sad trend and show commitment to take this nation forward.

- Ralph Mathekga is a senior researcher at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape. He is author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

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:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  mmusi maimane  |  election  |  coalitions
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