Populist politics still a threat to SA society, Thuli Madonsela warns

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Pic: Wil Punt, Peartree Photography)
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Pic: Wil Punt, Peartree Photography)

Cape Town – Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday that state capture has left South African society and its political arena fragile and vulnerable to populist rhetoric, which perpetrators of state capture are exploiting for political means.

Speaking at the Brand Summit South Africa in Cape Town, Madonsela said South Africans should not be hard on themselves regarding the years of state capture under former president Jacob Zuma.

While land expropriation and transforming the economy has become the hot topic in politics, the African National Congress is competing with the Economic Freedom Fighters for the votes of young black South Africans disaffected with continued economic inequalities.

Mandonsela was appointed the chair of social justice at Stellenbosch University’s faculty of law. When asked during a panel discussion about the situation in South Africa, she said it is “not as bad as one would think, but not as good as it could be”.

'People are fragile'

“When you express your disdain for corruption on Twitter, you become branded as white monopoly capital. People are fragile. The Zuma administration has made people angry at white monopoly capital so there is a price for informing them that they are also being used by those who promised to serve them,” said Madonsela.

She said politicians are eager to exploit the divisions in South African society pertaining to race and inequality for votes at next year’s general election, reducing valid socioeconomic issues to political proxy.

“After a war, things don’t look okay. You have to quantify damage, look at where we came from and plan a way forward. I see entrepreneurs, managers and political opportunists using the disaffection of the poorest among us for their own benefit,” said Madonsela.

City Press editor-in-chief of  Mondli Makhanya said that in the political battlefield the EFF knows they will never govern, so they can say whatever they want.

“I doubt the Ramaphosa era will disable the EFF. There are young voters with whom they resonate. My sons are teenagers and not overly politicised, but they love the coolness of the EFF.

"But in a few years they will be old enough to vote and will have grown up to an image of Malema saying these impactful things,” said Makhanya.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the best President Cyril Ramaphosa can do is to find a consensus and get all sectors of South African society “into a room so we can all agree on what we want for South Africa”.

“There are things we should be willing to live with. The nation is allowing Ramaphosa to rehabilitate parts of the ANC he would like to rehabilitate, but they expect him to manage the party as well as government. There is nothing like the risk of losing power to get a party to shape up,” said Mathekga.

Mathekga said there are some things the country is prepared to accept in exchange for a stable governing party and government, including compromised minister from the Zuma administration and Deputy President David Mabuza.

Media expert and former editor of the Cape Times as well as the New Age Ryland Fisher said the ANC is bound to struggle to convince voters that they deserve a second chance.

Asked whether a potential move by Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille from the Democratic Alliance to the ANC could sway the governing party, he was doubtful.

“We are more likely to be loyal to parties than to individuals. In 2014 the people remained loyal to the ANC, even when they were angry at Zuma.

"If, for example, De Lille became the Western Cape premier candidate of the ANC she might take some votes from the DA but I doubt she would win,” said Fisher.

Political analyst and Free Market Foundation non-executive director Phumlani Majozi said Ramaphosa needs to figure out what to fix between the ANC and the country, although he is quite restrained when it comes to ANC politics.

“I am for land reform but there is a smack of propaganda in how it is being done. The rise of Ramaphosa has allowed the ANC to manage the pace of the discourse on this matter.

"The EFF is in a position where it has to find itself ahead of the 2019 election,” said Majozi.

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