Are you voting for the DA, ANC, ancestors or a dead Mandela?

2016-07-29 15:58

Major political parties are preparing to hold their final rallies this weekend. And having followed the election campaign through news reports, I'm very disappointed with the three major parties.

In the last local government elections in 2011, service delivery issues dominated the debate. The late Mandy Rossouw, a respected journalist who broke the Nkandla story called them the toilet election. This is because it was the first time that delivery of basic services had dominated an election campaign as it should be the case in every election.

The leaders of the 3 largest political parties have not done a very good job in making core local government service delivery issues the focus of the debate in this year's election campaign. While election manifestos might tell us about the political party's top priorities for the next term should they be elected into government, we look to their leaders to articulate their party positions on issues because fewer people actually read party manifestos.

Let's start with the ANC's President Jacob Zuma. Having survived many scandals that would have seen him recalled had he been a leader of a more established democracy, his top challenge is ensuring that the ANC does not lose control of the municipalities it currently governs.

But the ANC has lost electoral support since the day President Zuma took office. The only exception is KwaZulu Natal where the ANC managed to grow significantly under the Zuma presidency. His biggest losses have been in Gauteng where the ANC governs with 53.59% of the vote. Just over 50% of voters in Pretoria did not vote ANC on their provincial ballot 2 years ago and its the same story in Nelson Mandela Bay.

So President Zuma has the tough task of retaining metropolitan municipalities where the ANC has lost electoral support mainly due to service delivery issues, corruption and his many scandals. And the president cannot speak on the two issues since he faces some 700+ charges of fraud and corruption, and public money that was meant to improve service delivery in Durban ended up being diverted to Nkandla.

What is he left to campaign with if he cannot draw attention to governance issues? He tells people to vote ANC or else they will be punished by the ancestors. If the ANC was so good at delivering services, they would not need to threaten people with the ancestors nor would they need a dead Mandela, Tambo, or Sisulu.

But President Zuma is not the only one who invokes the name of the dead for votes. The DA had an advert where Mandela was quoted, and a poster with the words "honour Madiba's dream, vote DA". The party's spokeswoman Refiloe Ntsekhe claimed Mandela would vote DA. The party did this because they are convinced that they are the only ones upholding Mandela's values. This of course took attention away from the public debating the DA's offer to the electorate which was the case in 2011.

Instead, the debate became more about the DA's use of Mandela's name. This made the party appear to be desperate for the black vote so much so that their spokeswoman would tell the nation that Mandela would have voted for the DA. Here she conveniently forgets that the Democratic Party and NP actually opposed Mandela's transformation policies including affirmative action and and BEE. They called this the death of the rainbow nation in 1997. And Mandela did not like the DA, he only tolerated them for his rainbow nation project. The DA supports Mandela ideals only when it is convenient for them. What's wrong with the ANC upholding Mandela's values when it is convenient for them then?

And the DA's use of Mandela's name is not their only flaw in this election. Former DA leader Helen Zille had kept many of the election campaigns focused on the issues. Although she lost the plot a week before the 2009 election campaign with her "stop Zuma" poster. The DA's current leader loses the focus too sometimes, maybe most of the time.

Premier Zille kept the focus on her successes in Cape Town and articulated this well since she had served both as Mayor and Premier. So she knew the Cape Town story well and could sell it. Maimane on the other hand knows  the Cape Town story from reports he has read and a few tours with Patricia de Lille.

I watched Maimane addressing a DA gathering in Khayelitsha where he told people about the planned purchase of a private jet for President Zuma. No doubt this is an important issue. But the DA has led Cape Town for 10 years now and Khayelitsha is in Cape Town. The DA does not have a single a ward in the area. You would expect the DA leader to highlight progress the DA run Cape Town has made in the area and plans for the next term. Perhaps appeal to the voters in Khayelitsha to get rid of their lazy ANC ward councillors who run the 2 sub-councils in the area.

But Maimane did not do that. He chose to focus on President Zuma and his ANC who do not run Cape Town or the Western Cape. Maybe its because you could easily find communities in Khayelitsha that have seen very little changes in the past 10 years such as Site B's VT, VE, UT, TT, and WB informal settlements. It becomes difficult to speak of progress in a community that has not changed much. So the Zuma and Mandela distraction works well in some contexts.

Maybe no one in the DA told him that he could campaign for the DA without making Zuma or Mandela the focal point. That makes him look pathetic because the DA has enough success stories in Cape Town to draw attention to. The ANC may speak of Cape Town as if it was the best run city when they were in power but actually it was horrible. Broken bureaucracy, neglected infrastructure, and numerous housing projects "paralysed" by corruption and mismanagement of public resources. They under-spent on budget while we had to beg people who lived in proper houses to allow us to use their toilets. Slum dwellers in Khayelitsha would remember this well.

So both the ANC and the DA benefit somewhat by drawing the voter's attention away from the issues affecting them the most. Instead of having voters scrutinising governing party performance in government, let them talk about who is the best at honouring Mandela.

And the EFF's Malema will tell black voters who they shouldn't vote for instead of telling them why anyone should vote for the EFF that wants to turn South Africa into a ZimVenezuela. What has struck me the most about Julius Malema's promises is that many of them cannot be fulfilled by local government. To expropriate land without compensation, you would need to change section 25 (2) (b) of the constitution which requires compensation for the expropriated property. And no municipality has the power to change the constitution.

He has also promised R3000 pension grant for the elderly. Again, no municipality can do this and the State actually cannot afford this as we're already living beyond our means. Then he said he would do away with tenders and employ people to work for the State. Big government, spending generously. The money to fund this will fall from the sky like Mana from heaven. The point here is that very few, if any, of the promises the EFF is making are workable. Malema is our own Trump in some ways.

The sad part in all of this is that as voters go to the polls from Monday to Wednesday, none of them can claim to know what happened to the over 100 Chief Financial Officers who were employed by over 100 municipalities without having the appropriate qualifications and/or skills required for the job. None of the voters in poor municipalities where unemployment is over 50% know how their new councils will finance all the free stuff they are promising. So they head to the polls with no clue of how the new council will address actual challenges that hinder service delivery in their municipality. All I know is that political parties and their candidates will appear on your ballot paper. The ancestors will not be the ones responsible for delivering public goods and services nor will a dead Mandela.

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