THE Weekly Mail and Guardian from 25 April to 1 May had articles about the South African elections. I thought they provided an interesting insight into the situation here so I plan to summarise the reports and articles. Feel free to respond like you did with the post about the Palestinian peace proposals. I’ve written as much as I can, however have run out of time with the elections taking place tomorrow. Here goes then!
Jacob Zuma, State President
The paper reports on a Meeting Mr Zuma attended with the Afrikaner community titled JZ’s Koeksister (A sweet pastry) diplomacy kicks in’ about land reform at the Voortrekker Monument on 23 April, a venue which didn’t take account of the ANC’s long term stand on the issue. The Economic Freedom Front (EFF), the ANC’s biggest rival on reform is campaigning in support of redistribution without compensation, to which the ANC hasn’t responded. At the meeting several speakers took issue with land restitution with views that the l and reform process hadn’t created more commercial farmers. One farmer leader said that uncertainty over reform had worried investors and cost the industry much needed capital. The response was to suggest that reopening the land claims process preferable to having a referendum, intimating that a referendum which is supported by the EFF would have yielded a different outcome. Mr Zuma agreed the process had been flawed because new farmers weren’t assisted when they received land. He reminded the audience as he finished that claimants also have the option to agree financial compensation instead of receiving land.
With the ANC campaign the article is titled ‘A smile, a wave from the rock star in chief’ which suggests the campaign centres on Jacob Zuma and he’s the only photo on the placards. His stickers show him posing as more ‘classic nobility than modern approachability,’ a bit incongruous when the images are unpeeled from a roll and fixed to the backsides of 4 girls in the photo dressed in skimpy hot pants, possibly a reminder of the ANC Presidents sexual history. With a single leading candidate campaign visits like in Tonga are short which provides few chances of him speaking to supporters which leaves some of them discontented, but still intending to vote ANC. At a Sports Stadium Rally there people at least see the candidates image on a screen. Additionally Mr Zuma departs from his speech to criticise the opposition in Zulu which excites the crowd. He makes fun of them, suggesting they have no policy, just keep shouting about corruption and their obsession with State money spending on security at his rural home Nkandla, speaking in a high pitched voice. He dances a ‘jig’ which captures how the DA Leader Helen Zille (who was a student at Wits with me and quite left wing at the time) would look while holding a document while her toes were set on fire which the crowd loves. They admitted later they like him to perform for them and in their view the opposition partie.s are silly. Mr Zuma finishes with his ‘Bring me my machine gun’ song, it’s clear they’ll vote for him and of course the ANC.
In this edition the Democratic Alliance (DA) only gets coverage of it’s campaign in Mpumalanga where election posters on the lowveld’s streets are DA and ANC dominated where the 2 parties are going head to head. In Mhluzi the DA’s Lindiwe Mazibbuko speaks to about 400 voters where she’s the only person there not wearing a blue shirt. Afterwards 4 audience members tell the paper they’re disillusioned ANC supporters weary of empty promises and the lack of jobs who have been won over by the DA. There’s a quote that ‘Democracy has become a contest for patron age in the ANC where the choice now is not which party makes it to government but which faction makes it to government.’
With the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) led by the ex-leader of the ANC Youth League Julius Malema the article is title as ‘League leaps from frying pan into the fire,’ with a suggestion the party is still paying the price for it’s incarnation under his leadership. The ANC was relieved that the funding problems facing the party ended with out of court settlements in March 2014. Another R4.8 million debt has just emerged which could once again threaten the party with insolvency. In addition to these problems there seems to be ‘no honour among thieves,’ convicted or alleged with an open letter to him by ex-prisoner Gayton McKenzie calling Malema ‘the biggest thief he ever met, the Commander in Thief.’ Mr McKenzie who’s formed his own party called the Patriotic Alliance. Mr Malema patronised a club run by him in Sandton, one of Johannesburg’s wealthiest suburbs where he ate sushi off the bodies of semi-naked women. Mr McKenzie reminded Mr Malema that they both aren’t revolutionaries, shopping at Louis Vuitton and Gucci shops, with watches that costs thousands, wearing more on their arms than any Marikana miner will ever hold in his hand. He criticises Mr Malema, suggesting being audacious in claiming what he wears is to ‘inspire the poor.’ He ends the letter writing that ‘for people like us to suggest we’re revolutionaries is an insult to history’s real revolutionaries.’
With commentators Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission never recovered from Nelson Mandela only serving one term as president, describing it as a blow from which it never recovered. He doesn’t believe Mr Mandela would have left it’s business so scandalously unfinished as his successors have. He’s referring to the reparation level recommended by the Commission was never enacted, the proposal of a once-off wealth tax as a mechanism to transfer resources was ignored and those declined amnesty weren’t prosecuted. He criticises today’s South Africa for appalling violence against women and children, a hopelessly inequitable country in which most of the rich have kept their wealth while the poor continue surviving on scraps. He thinks the education system is failing to prepare young people to contribute to their own and the country’s development. All these factors he think are against a backdrop of the Marikana miner massacre, the public protectors report into the obscene spending on the presidents property at Nkandla, a dearth of magnanimity, accountability and ethical incorruptibility.
Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu leader Mr Vavi has only just been reinstated as Union leader after a Court found his suspension had been illegal. He’s in dispute with the Union president Sdumo Dlamini and the ANC leadership about supporting the party in the elections because he disapproves of the direction the Party is taking. The Headline was ‘Forced to sing ANC’s praises’ because he’s had to agree to attend a May Day Rally in Port Elizabeth to help the ruling party to retain the Eastern Cape Province which is facing its toughest poll there. He has evidently told an ally that he won’t campaign for the ANC because it’ll compromise his integrity. He’s said he’d find it hard to campaign because the party failed to create decent jobs, criticised £1500000 spent to upgrade the Presidents private home, the ANC’s decision to adopt the National Development Plan, its refusal to ban labour brokers and introducing e-tolls in Gauteng Province which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. Mr Dlamini’s Cosatu faction supports Jacob Zuma’s Presidential campaign with Mr Vavi’s faction opposing it. The ANC has tried to mediate agreement between the 2 leaders, however Mr Vavi’s reluctance to campaign is causing problems. Irvin Jim who leads the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) has warned Mr Vavi ‘knives are still out for him’, suggesting at the Rally he needs to focus on workers issue. Other Unions want him to campaign for the ANC which suggests that Unions disagree on whether to support the party. When interviewed by the paper he said he wanted to focus on Union unity.
F W De Klerk the last apartheid president wrote about the lasting challenge of 27 April 1994 which in his view needs to be celebrated now. What he wants to celebrate is the democracy anniversary and South Africa’s 1st non-racial and fully democratic Constitution came into effect which endowed all citizens with the full range of human rights and freedom, power passed to the people and sovereignty was transferred from Parliament to the Constitution. He thinks it was a glorious victory for all citizens, it was the culmination of the work of South African from the whole political spectrum at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa and in the National Forum to hammer out a joint agreement on how the new society should be constituted. While there has been significant progress he thinks some of these foundations are threatened by the ANC with the imposition of the ‘second stage of the transition.’
He’s critical of the ANC promulgating regulations under the Employment Equity Act which will require designated employers to ensure that 79% of the 3 top management levels be occupied by black South Africans, for farmers to hand over 50% of farms without financial compensation to farm workers and to establish joint management mechanisms and is threatening to impose racial quotas on all national sports teams. He thinks the ANC is seizing ‘levers of state power’ in key positions in public services like the Police, Army and Para-Statals without experience but because of their political connections. He gives examples like ANC HQ using Intelligence Services to bolster the leadership, a controversial Director had been appointed to the SA Police Service Independent Police Directorate and the National Prosecution Authority has defied the Courts by refusing to release tapes about Charges dropped against Jacob Zuma in 2009 and irrationally refuses to reinstate Charges against another senor Police officer. He thinks the ANC leadership rallying to support Mr Zuma to defend State spending on his home shows the chance of fighting corruption is dismal.
Mr De Klerk suggests South Africans need to accept that the future of their constitutional democracy is threatened then use their rights and constitutional history to defend their freedom. He thinks citizens need to challenge unconstitutional laws and actions in the Courts, mobilise opinion in support of the Constitution, to insist on the institutions keeping their independence and to challenge unconstitutional behaviour. He maintains that there’s a global consensus to support free institutions and genuine nonracialism. He wants everyone to redouble efforts to work for real transformation in South Africa to bring it into closer alignment with the vision and values in the Constitution. He cites important values as human dignity, achieving equality, advancement of human rights, nonracialism and nonsexism, supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law, a genuine multiparty system of democratic document based on accountability, responsiveness and openness.
My last article for the post is written by Vishwas Satgar who puts the arguments for spoiling votes, ‘No tells the ANC enough is enough.’ He cites popular discontent about the state of the nation and in particular the ANC as a rationale for this protest. The Vote No! or Rise up! campaigns have evolved to have a national conversation about the state of South African democracy. At the campaigns centre is the preposition that citizens can vote in the elections but to spoil the vote (by writing No across it) or to vote tactically for parties other than the ANC or the DA, enhancing voter choice. The campaign is a serious, unprecedented political intervention by activists and citizens who fought against apartheid and continue to strengthen SA democracy. It’s concerned by concerns about the degeneration of the ANC as the dominant political party, threatening the future of the country and democracy.
The abuse of power by the ANC, reflected in widespread corruption, economic policies which deepen inequality and unemployment, an unjust transition, failure to address climate change and to roll back democracy. The campaign is led by young activists, inspired by the radical turn in youth politics as in the Arab spring, the Occupy movement and the militant unemployed people’s movements in Spain and South America. They’re looking for different ways to engage in politics beyond political parties from which they feel disconnected and alienated.
Well known ANC members Ronnie Kasrills and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge have endorsed the Vote No! campaign.The United Democratic Front and National Union of Metal Worker of South Africa (Numsa) have endorsed this approach. Progressive civil society is experience an awakening after 20 years of democracy while led to their dissolution, it is willing to campaign for a deeper democracy (representative and participatory) and to push for direct democratic action. The ANC leadership has reacted very negatively to the campaign, describing it as treasonous. This approach suggests that the ANC can’t see that constitutional democracy here doesn’t start and end with the Party. The Constitution gives the Vote No! campaign the right to exist. After 20 years democracy none of the centre-right opposition parties can challenge the ANC’s dominance which asks the question whether they are speaking to the aspirations and needs of South Africa’s majority and has the country arrived at a stage when it needs a serious left wing manager. For the first time in the country there’s a campaign for the Election Commission to count and publicise the ‘no’ votes.
A ‘no’ message conveys outrage and at the ruling party and shows the power of citizen’s voices. It shows the need for ethical standards(honesty, accountability, transparency, service to the people) without which corporate politics will dominate. Action from below finally helps to deepen democracy. If parties in South Africa can’t help citizens to realise the wishes of the excluded majority they have a right to withdraw consent to their rule. A spoilt vote can force political parties to see they can’t take the aspirations and needs of voters for granted.
I think it’s time to finish. Last week the Mail and Guardian editorial suggested that voters should withdraw their support for the ANC, either choosing to vote for the DA or other parties which most meet their aspirations, or spoiling their vote. From my following the elections I think the ANC will retain it’s majority, what’s uncertain is what percentage vote for the Party. My View is that the DA campaign flagged towards the end because it became clear that voters still don’t trust the Party. Julius Malema’s EFF will probably have at least 1 MP, COPE has returned to the ANC fold and other smaller Parties will have a few seats. My prediction is that the number of spoilt ballots will increase, what effects of this action will have is unknown. I sense that many South Africans are uncertain which Parties they will vote for, but ANC supporters will continue to support the Party at present. I can understand voters current dilemmas and I don’t know what I’d do in their situation. I’ve taken photos of election posters which I’ll send before I leave Cape Town on 9 May.