Ralph Mathekga

What Trump, Zuma and Malema have in common

2016-11-11 10:30

Zuma 'cure' for Mbeki's poor relationship with SA - author

2016-11-10 11:45

Analyst Ralph Mathekga argues Jacob Zuma arrived on the stage of ANC leadership as an alternative to technocrat Thabo Mbeki.WATCH

Donald Trump's victory as the President of the United States of America shook the world to its core. In Trump's victory lies a deeper question as to whether democratic processes can truly be relied upon to bring about acceptable results.

What happens when the democratic process, including the process of electing a president, produces odd results such as Trump’s presidency? How on earth did Trump's joke of becoming the president of one of the most powerful nations turn into reality?

The problem is not with Trump. The problem is with 'Main Street' politics. There is something wrong on Main Street and Trump has promised his supporters that he will be fixing Main Street.

There is a growing phenomenon showing that nations are willing to entertain leaders who seek to challenge normal politics. This is not limited to America. We also saw it with Britain's decision to leave the European Union. The same sentiment could be witnessed with the rise of the right-wing anti-immigration movement in Europe where some European nations believe that immigrants are evil and should not be allowed to come to the continent. Here in South Africa we have also seen an interesting phenomenon that I call the politics of disruption, where the EFF has sought to disrupt normal politics because it just doesn't produce the desired results as the party would have it.

Quite ironically, in South Africa those who are considered to represent stability and normality in our politics have themselves come to power on the anti-establishment ticket. President Jacob Zuma's emergence as the leader of the ANC somehow came about as an expression of doubt about mainstream politics. Zuma's ascension to lead the ANC and subsequently the country was a triumph against Mbeki's mainstream. At the centre of all this is a clear indication that politics is not always about identifying a point of compromise that works for all members of society. This says that you can actually succeed in running a campaign based on a threat to drive some people into the sea if you get elected.

The world is constantly shifting away from a compromise point. It is just not fashionable and politically rewarding to promise as a leader that you will work with those who hold opposite ideas as you. The EFF's Commander in Chief, whatever that title means for a leader of a political party in a democracy, has stated publicly that he will for now hold back on a plan to “slaughter” whites – until further notice. Zuma has repeatedly expressed how frustrating it is to work within a democracy as opposed to a dictatorship. The ANC Youth League president Collen Maine has recently called for his minions to prepare taking up arms to defend the “revolution” (read Zuma). Maine is not prepared to engage in a lengthy exercise of trying to reason and persuade those who hold the position that Zuma is compromised and have poor judgment. Persuading people by way of reasoning is something that Maine seems not to have time for; he prefers to go straight for the kneecaps!

What is interesting about this phenomenon is that it seems to gain traction among communities. Those who advance extremism as a way of dealing with society's problems do get support from among us. We support them not because we believe in what they are saying, but because of the genuine frustration with normal politics. The support that is often given to the extremists is usually based on the belief that if those people indeed succeed to be in power, they will not carry out their threats. So long as Trump will not carry out his threat of building a wall between the US and Mexico, then he can talk as much as he wants about that.

Because Malema will never actually slaughter whites, it’s okay for him to make those comments. Those comments, it is believed, will ensure that whites live in fear and probably offer something so that they can be spared. It is believed Trump will not build a wall, but his statement will stop Mexicans from crossing into America. Zuma will never institute a dictatorship; he’s simply trying to deal with the bad attitude of people in a democracy  including the students who are abusing their democratic rights to keep protesting.  

The problem with the dismissive attitude towards extreme ideas is that it solely relies on the laziness or lack of commitment by those individuals propagating such ideas. Now the world will have to rely on Trump’s laziness and that he will not get to carry out the work of building a wall. Or that Malema is too incompetent to carry out his threat of slaughtering whites. This does not offer credible safety against possible catastrophe. Extreme and dangerous ideas have to be confronted head on and not be left idle to die a natural death.

Most importantly, leaders at the centre of ‘normal’ politics should stop corruption because that threatens legitimacy of mainstream politics and its institutions, allowing for opportunistic elements to promise simplistic, dangerous solutions. If that is not done, there is a real risk that whatever remains of democracy will be used as platform to totally obliterate nations. 

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:    donald trump  |  jacob zuma  |  us 2016 election


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