SOUTH AFRICA: OUR GREATEST CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD OF US.

2013-01-11 08:48

2012 by all accounts was a rather eventful year politically, culminating in the African National Congress’ 53rd Elective Conference in Mangaung. The Mangaung corpse is barely cold and attention has now wholly been focused on the upcoming elections to be held in 2014.

The key players within the ruling party are by now widely known, Mr Zuma secured a second term as ANC president, Mr Ramaphosa replaced Kgalema Motlanthe as his deputy, and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe retained his position along with chairwoman Baleka Mbete at the conference in the Free State. Deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte was elected unopposed and KwaZulu-Natal chairman Zweli Mkhize replaced Mathews Phosa as treasurer.

Kgalema Motlanthe gave the party the most precious gift he could at the conference; he gave it his political life and asked for nothing in return. The ANC as a result was perceptive enough not to repeat the thuggery of Thabo Mbeki’s removal. Although as the ANC remains the governing party, the number of those in its inner circle who become disaffected with it, can only grow as the simple internal dynamics of a party that attempts to house a large number of differing ideologies under one broad church makes for great rhetoric but is in practice a ticking time bomb.

If in 2014 we once again head to the polls holding on to our racial and geographical divisons – which are espoused and vehemently entrenched by the ruling party – the general South African public will be left to deal with the carnage. The time for us all to vote with our heads and collective conscience has never been more acute as it is now. There are a few South Africans where merely changing legislation resulted in immediate material changes for them. For the remainder, however, more than just freedom of choice was needed for actual changes to occur.

On its website the ANC is described as "South Africa's National Liberation Movement". Very few would dispute this. With corruption, nepotism and cronyism running rife in the ANC-led government, many would also not dispute that the main recipients of "liberation" are those related to or connected to ANC elites. What many people can dispute, however, is that the ANC has continued to liberate ordinary South Africans from the deprived socio-economic conditions they faced prior to democratic rule.

Working-class South Africans are not so naïve as to believe the government has done all in its power to address poverty. Not only does the looting happen through corruption but also a bureaucracy filled with people who loot the valuable time that they should be spending doing their jobs. Absent teachers, nurses and clerks are prime examples of such government employees. South Africa is one of the biggest spenders on education in the world yet our education system remains a shambles. You need only look at the textbook disaster in Limpopo and into the abyss which is the Eastern Cape department of education. For as long as the input (money) does not match the output (a well-educated population) then we cannot say enough has been done.

Yet the President remains confident enough to proclaim during the concert marking the end of ANC centenary celebrations held in Durban last Sunday that,

"Without wanting to sound arrogant, we state categorically that we cannot imagine a South Africa without the ANC. A South Africa not led by the ANC was inconceivable as the party is the only true defender of the interests of all the country’s residents”

Unfortunately, politics are largely about perceptions and not always about what you've achieved. It's a pity the official opposition party has taken what seem to be contradictory stances on issues regarding the working class. Calling workers who are exercising their democratic right when asking for better wages "a greedy elite" can't have won the DA too many working-class votes. Although relatively successful in the Western Cape, especially when looking at the turnaround in the City of Cape Town, the opposition has failed to replicate its success in working-class areas. The toilet incident is such an instance. The opposition has done little to convince the majority of South Africans to vote for them and the ANC has done a lot to leave them feeling ashamed and irresponsible if they vote ANC in the coming election. Many South Africans will find themselves in a tricky position when at the polls in 2014.

Mrs Zille, during the Democratic Alliance’s Federal Congress, stated:

"To bring real and lasting change, we must win a national election ... Because we can only implement our policies when we are the government. We cannot do so in    opposition. Our goal is to become the government of South Africa so that everyone has freedom they can use to build a better life. We know if we keep on, we will get there ... And sooner than many people think ... It will not be easy. We respect the power of past loyalties. We understand how much we owe to those who struggled for our freedom. We know how hard it will be to live up to their legacy. That is why we say: 'honour your past, but own your future'."

Is South Africa and all that call her home ready to own our respective and collective futures?

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