Politics of the stomach

2016-08-03 06:00

LOCAL government elections are around the corner and instead of being excited about future leaders, who will spearhead service delivery, we are mourning and worried which local political leader will die next.

Centuries of hard work and sacrifices, fighting against colonialism and apartheid, have been worthy of all the praise, and our history will always be relevant. But what are we to make of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who have died for daring to stand up for the parties in their respective wards in KwaZulu-Natal?

Still, can the political and economic history of this country be divorced from the unfolding incidents of political slaying of our political hopefuls at community level?

I argue that the same political and economic history that the mass anti-apartheid movement, led by the ANC, was about, is still responsible for the unhealthy contest for political posts due to the general urgent need for economic emancipation.

What we have feels like the law of the jungle. It is supposed to be a guided and engineered process towards economic emancipation. It is supposed to be a normal next phase of struggle.

The political phase was sealed in 2004 when the first democratically elected black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, took office.

But that was just the beginning. The second phase of struggle is not being well addressed.

The struggle for jobs and the contest for such is higher than the opportunities for social and economic emancipation of people who enjoy political freedom.

It cannot be surprising then that the 2016 local government election has been marred by allegations of lists that get changed and interfered with to accommodate­ cronyism and nepotism.

This on its own says a lot about the manner in which the second phase of our struggle against the consequences of colonialism and apartheid is being handled in a post-apartheid South Africa.

Who ushers our people out of poverty, lack of economic growth and self-actualisation? Strides are being made, but certainly they are on the inadequacy side.

Ugly as it may be the violence that occurs in the taxi industry, as contests for routes persist, and the killing of education professionals in the teaching profession amid the selling of posts, and now the bloody contest for political posts at local government level, do not happen by coincidence.

A glorious political struggle that united and synthesised our common political purpose is now being fast surpassed by the more urgent concerns of the politics of the belly.

Where does this leave us as a people? How does this situation define our present and future prospects?

Needless to say, it is undemocratic and despicable to include people, who were not elected by ordinary people at grass-roots level in local government lists, that infuriate people and stir up controversial unrest.

Are we left with a sense of false hope - false hope because the politics of the stomach is selfish and defies norms and the rules of engagement at social and community level, our political formations included.

False hope because the multi-party scenario of our country makes it easy for political contests to degenerate to the politics of the stomach, of careerism and economic opportunism, as opposed to merit, competence and effective representation in the halls of power.

Pro-ANC political hegemony that defined the country’s voting pattern may not last for as long as we may have hoped if such rival political players in the EFF, DA, IFP, etc., continue to exhibit the capacity to capitalise on the weaknesses of the ruling party, and this is both bad and good for South Africa.

The threat of the demise of political hegemony is good because multi-party democracy is supposed to encourage a culture of accountability, transparency and an opportunity to replace ineffective, stagnant or counterproductive political leadership at all levels.

The death of political harmony is bad because the political will to implement service delivery projects may be politicised, weakened, derailed or stalled by a lack of political harmony or hegemony that we have known.

Too much political posturing and bickering undermine efficient handling of bread-and-butter issues, e.g. providing roads and transport services, social welfare services, houses, water, electricity, recreation, jobs, etc., to previously disadvantaged communities.

When people choose unorthodox methods and the jungle route in dealing with their economic challenges, then there will be “senseless” killings as the economy fails to divert their attention to other diverse areas of self-actualisation, job creation or economic emancipation.

• Simphiwe Mkhize writes in his personal capacity.


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