The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
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EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu (Thulani Mbele/Gallo Images)
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When corruption becomes too widespread and
totally out of control, the idea of going into the election with an anti-corruption
manifesto is just senseless.
Where different political formations,
including parties, drink from the same well of corruption, it will be senseless
for voters to choose parties on the basis of their anti-corruption message. In
this case, an anti-corruption stance would not help much in differentiating
political parties from one another.
Recent developments in South Africa's
anti-corruption crusade have shown that a party's stance on this might not
matter much in the 2019 elections, simply because our political parties are all
too complicit in corruption in the country. This nation also seems to be
getting numbed by revelations of corruption to a point where they are no longer
able to formulate a cogent response.
The VBS Mutual Bank scandal has disappointed
many South Africans, particularly the alleged involvement of the EFF leader in
the scandal. Even those who do not support the politics of the EFF would admit
that the allegations do not only tarnish the party's image of speaking truth to
power, but also damages the broader political system of the country.
Whether or not EFF deputy president Floyd
Shivambu has benefitted improperly from the VBS looting, the allegations have
sparked the nation's cynicism towards anti-corruption. Add to that the demise of
former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, a good guy who was caught lying about
his relationship with the controversial Gupta family.
All this brings a great deal of ambivalence
towards the notion of anti-corruption. It brings mistrust in the war against
corruption. A perception will soon emerge that South Africans just might have
to choose leaders on the basis of the (acceptable) degree to which they are
When this level of cynicism sets in, as is
the case, anti-corruption no longer offers an attractive platform to stage a
political campaign from.
An example of this may be observed with the
ANC; the party cannot go into the 2019 elections with a strong anti-corruption
message. It is plain laughable for a political party to go into the election
with a confession; it's unheard of!
If President Cyril Ramaphosa tries to beat
the anti-corruption drum too loud in the period leading to the elections,
people will be reminded that the ANC has been in power when it all went wrong. The
party will find itself on the defence.
As for the EFF, the party's decision to
defend Shivambu on the VBS allegations inaugurated a different attitude towards
corruption. The EFF is no longer concerned with corruption in companies such as
VBS, which according to the party is all about crumbs. The EFF is picking a
fight with a big price tag of corruption such as Steinhoff, which seems to be
The EFF is saying that VBS is merely a
deflection; the real issue is with the grand scale theft orchestrated by the business
aligned ANC cabal that has taken over the party at Nasrec.
This complicates the entire anti-corruption
fight in South Africa. Voters don't like complicated messages. It means that
the EFF also cannot go into the elections with an anti-corruption message. It's
just too complicated. What the party is mostly banking on is pushing the
There are many reasons why the EFF would
abandon the narrow anti-corruption crusade, including latching on the VBS
scandal. The party's position might have been influenced by Shivambu's situation
regarding VBS. On the other hand, the EFF could just simply be upping the stake
and going for the entire system instead of focusing on small administrative
issues such as anti-corruption.
It has always been the view of the EFF that
the entire system as it is, is corrupt and illegitimate. It's an unhealthy
alliance between political elites and business elites. This is a complicated
message to go into the elections with, but it's worth a try.
If anti-corruption is as risky a platform
for the different parties as it has recently proven to be, anything far from
anti-corruption is the way to go in activating voters.
The DA, for example, decided to go for a
more attractive way to woe voters in the coming elections. The party opted for
anti-immigration stance (read: Xenophobia in the case of South Africa). I
wonder how the DA plans to ensure that their immigration position will not translate
All in all, anti-corruption just won't
matter much in the next elections. However, gossip and blackmail might feature
prominently as a source of wisdom and an effective political tool for some of
our respectable political formations.
- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and 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.
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