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Rita T.M. Kufandarerwa
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The mediocrity, poverty and confusion in South African politics

17 February 2017, 13:44

From blatant lies, half-truths and coy adumbrations- the SONA made us smell the desperation in the South African political landscape. The poverty in South African politics has been there, it just became overt with this year’s SONA. South Africa is the beacon of civilized democracies; many African countries follow in the footsteps of South Africa. When punches were thrown, vulgar insults uttered and commotion was ushered in, the whole of Africa looked in embarrassment. Commiserations were in order for the ordinary South African who expected to hear what His Excellency had to say but was swallowed in the parliamentary brouhaha. The melee in parliament was nothing but political parties trying to survive and remain relevant. The ANC with their dwindling support, the DA with their unclear mandate and the EFF with their violent tactics- the main political parties are running confused and outbursts are inevitable. In all of this, what alternative do the masses have? Is South Africa going to be subjected to politics of mediocrity in the absence of a stable political party?

The ANC struggling to breathe:

My sympathies deserted the ANC the moment they appeared to be hijacking the EFF mandate of “Radical Economic Transformation”. Jacob Zuma’s body language reported of a president running scared. Under the ANC leadership, many economic transformation programmes have been implemented. From GEAR, ASGISA and recently the controversial EE and BBEE- the ANC has been at the helm of transformation policies. Instead of Zuma reporting on the progress of these transformation policies, he jumped onto the EFF wagon and hinted on hastening the transformation policies. A president leading a party that is confident in its policies would not stand on a platform like the National Assembly and sing politics of envy. I say politics of envy because transformation policies have been put in place and people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds are given employment or business preferences. Jacob Zuma was supposed to let the nation know the truth which is that these transformation policies were abused and a few elites benefited ever since they were incepted. In a desperate bid to remain relevant, the ANC is running amok and talking about radical economic transformation- a problem that has already been mitigated but failing because of corruption. Corruption should move to the highest priority of the ANC list if it is to remain relevant, not radical economic transformation.

The DA and Maimane’s feeble Obama-like gestures:

With their steady progress in last year’s elections, at some point I thought that the DA under Mmusi Maimane was a worthy alternative. The DA’s Herman Mashaba has started cashing in on the anti-immigrant tide like Donald Trump. That might ensure them some votes because of the latent xenophobic attitude that South Africans harbour. However, that is at a mayoral level. At the national level, Mmusi cannot offer more than his exaggerated gesticulations as a leader. The DA is supposed to have the cooler temperament, that meant that during the SONA we were supposed to see a calm and collected DA actively engaging the executive. What we saw instead was Maimane speaking with an exaggerated accent and emphasis on how the army had been deployed in the National Assembly. A progressive liberal party like the DA cannot dramatically march out of the parliament- that is expected from the EFF. Every politician needs charm and who else other than Barack Obama epitomizes that? While Mmusi represents a good orator, the Obama charm that he is applying needs to be accompanied by actions. Throwing a tantrum and trying to seduce the masses with an exaggerated speech while marching out of the parliament unprovoked is not a strategy.

The EFF’s stolen mandates and undiversified tactics:

“Expropriation of land without compensation” was without a doubt the EFF’s mantra. Economic Freedom propelled the EFF into power. I do not want to give them the ultimate ownership of the economic freedom quest invention but it has been their vertebrae. The ANC under Zuma stated singing the same song. The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Mr Gugile Nkwinti  recently suggested that a law for the expropriation of land without ownership needs to be gazzetted. This leaves the EFF bereft of a key mandate. In politics, a party losing direction or mandate heralds a loss in support and extinction. In survival mode like the ANC, the EFF unsurprisingly disrupted the SONA by their usual barbaric hurling of insults. It was a defiant stunt in the beginning but now, the disruption of key addresses and boycotting parliamentary sittings is now synonymous with disorder. One begins to ask whether the EFF have anything else to offer the South African polity apart from banal disruption and pseudo-revolutionary gimmicks.

Does South Africa have a political alternative? A prediction for the 2019 election.

While I have not focused on smaller political parties like COPE, UDM, IFP and the ACDP- the top 3 political parties do not seem to provide a worthy alternative for the toiling masses of South Africa. In the absence of a worthy opponent, mediocrity prospers. Many South Africans are on common ground in that the ANC is now unappetizing and it’s slowly leading the country into pandemonium. Many want to see the ANC vanquished but the opposition parties in their confusion are not providing a worthy alternative. South Africa is too much of a strategically important country to be left in the care of political parties that lack direction and purpose. With the DA and the EFF as the main opposition parties, the ANC using the powers of an incumbent government will win the 2019 elections. The win for the ANC will not be great, neither will it be what the majority want but they have access to state institutions which they are not ashamed of abusing. We saw the army deployed to protect His Excellency and to our surprise we heard of the multi-million Rand plan to erect a statue of His Excellency in the North West. Can South Africa be ridded of this mediocrity? It’s a simple no because there is a rampant ideological poverty that all its political parties are operating under.

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