We are on the highway to 2019

2017-01-15 06:02
Mondli Makhanya, City Press editor in chief

Mondli Makhanya, City Press editor in chief

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It was a privilege to be an insomniac on Wednesday morning. If you were one of us at 4am that day, you would have witnessed Barack Obama delivering his final address to the American nation.

And what a speech! It was Obama at his most magical.

By the time he came to the end of his hourlong address, you just wished he could go on, so inspiring and eloquent it was.

Tens of millions who had tuned in from around the world were as inspired as many of the American people he was directly addressing. Social media was abuzz with world citizens saying in unison: “We will miss this man.”

Obama came into office in 2008 following an electric campaign that was premised on the promise of change.

He galvanised diverse constituencies with the message “Yes, we can” to bring about change in society. He delivered on some crucial issues, but fell short on some others.

A hostile, Republican Party-dominated Congress made sure his tenure was hell. Gridlock was the name of the game as they frustrated his every initiative, mostly just for the sake of it.

Republican legislators were unrelenting in their hatred of the man and US citizens became victims of the campaign to frustrate and punish Obama.

There were many things he couldn’t change, either because they were intractable or because realpolitik dictated that they were beyond him.

On his watch, the issue of race continued to be stubborn, Americans continued to regard guns as extra limbs, the sport of bombing Arab lands remained popular and the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of one of the world’s cruellest regimes continued unabated.

But as he, Michelle and their daughters wave goodbye from the steps of the presidential helicopter on Thursday, he should be content in the knowledge that he leaves behind a sound legacy.

In the US and around the world it will always be acknowledged that he didn’t just warm the Oval Office; he did his best to use it to effect some positive change in his country.

Beneath the smile will be regret that the person following him into the White House is the most deranged president that Americans have had in the history of their country.

He will know that when Americans voted for him in 2008 and 2012, they were voting for hope. He knows that in November last year, they voted for the destruction of hope and for a warped future.

He will be aware that the colossal mistake that the US made will take a lot of hard work to undo.

South Africans learnt the hard way about the folly of gambling with a nation’s future.

Daily they are given rude reminders about the expensive experiment they made by giving power to an individual with a moral deficit and who would have been better suited to providing entertainment at toddlers’ birthday parties.

After the steady hands of the first two presidents and the brief custodianship of the third, we decided that we wanted a bit of chaos in our lives. All of us – not only the next president and his government – have our work cut out in righting the wrong.

In correcting this mistake, South Africans should not just be bandying about names of possible contenders. We should look at what sort of person we want to lead the repairing of the damage we inflicted on ourselves.

There needs to be a thorough discussion about what we want the next person to do. Do we just want a seat-warmer who won’t rock the boat, or do we want an activist and a bold visionary?

Do we want a gentle uncle/auntie or do we want a forward-looking person who will be impatient with our walking pace?

Do we want a careful person in immaculate white attire or do we want someone with scars to prove that he or she is a battler who will risk injury fighting for us?

Do we care about the morality and the intellectual weight of such a person?

There should also be discussions about the process leading up to the choice of this person. Up to now it has been taken for granted that the person who convinces (or more recently buys) the most ANC branches will automatically ascend the throne.

This can no longer be taken for granted. With the outcome of the 2016 local government elections still fresh in our minds, we should be aware that there is a chance – albeit slim – that, in 2019, power could change hands.

The possibility of power changing hands should therefore compel us to apply as much scrutiny to electoral processes of opposition leadership as we do those of the ANC.

Right now we are focusing all our attention on the ANC and how it goes about choosing its leaders. The result of this is that opposition parties who – if the ANC falls below 50% – will either produce the next South African president or influence the choice of that leader, are able to go about their business without close scrutiny.

We may come to regret this in time to come.

We should approach the 2017 political season with the awareness that we are now on the highway to 2019.

Read more on:    anc  |  barack obama  |  2019 elections

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