So, seriously, why will over 50% of us vote for the ANC despite all?
The majority of those who keep the party in business do so because their lives depend on it
Once, the only sure things were death and taxes. But that was before the ANC. These days you can die in a hail of auditor’s reports and Sunday headlines, and be reincarnated as secretary-general. As for taxes, well, if the cash is going straight from you into a Louis Vuitton suitcase, isn’t that just theft?
There are still, however, two other immutable truths that we can carve in stone: on May 8, well over half of the South Africans who vote will make their mark next to the ANC; and as soon as that result becomes official, the rest of the country will sigh a long, shuddering sigh and ask: “Why?”
It seems like a logical question, especially to news-guzzling urbanites. Once astonishment hardens into anger, it will feel similarly logical to accuse ANC voters of being stupid, or at least wildly self-destructive.
These accusations will feel legitimate because of the evidence we’ve been choking on for years: the dozens of Big Men trailing toxic ooze out of their pointy shoes; the hundreds of hypocrites who defended their corruption while spouting sanctimony; the thousands of lies and denials; the millions of children robbed of a future; the billions of rands stolen or simply evaporated.
It is the sheer weight of this evidence that distinguishes a vote for the ANC from a vote for any other party. One may be concerned by how the DA bungled the De Lille fiasco, or unmoved by its beige leadership and policies. One may be alarmed by the EFF’s utopian fantasies and its willingness to defend them with violence, or be highly suspicious of the ethics of its leadership. But in both cases, and, indeed, with any of the smaller parties further down the list, all one has to go on is a personal interpretation of a handful of incidents and allegations. No other party has an unavoidable, undeniable mountain of filth towering over it. No other party has proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, that it is fundamentally unable to run this country.
And yet, despite all the evidence that the ANC’s mountain of filth is starting to crush the fragile democracy it helped breathe into life in 1994, more than half of us are going to give it another five years in charge. Why?
There are easy, angry, dismissive answers to this question, but they help nobody. Indeed, to write off the ANC’s majority as the result of stupidity or Stockholm Syndrome is to dismiss the fundamental realities of modern South Africa, and to miss an opportunity to see our country, our compatriots, and ourselves a little more clearly.
As I see it, there are two reasons to vote ANC.
The first is that your faith requires it. The second is that your life depends on it.
The first group is small and, perhaps, shrinking. These are South Africans who grew up in the church of the ANC; who felt the call and who saw the miracle; and who, despite being shown the church’s sordid, predatory, human face, simply don’t know how to walk away from history and traditions that feel like a part of their soul. If we are going to ask these people why they still vote ANC then we must ask Catholics why they still go to mass.
The second group is much larger, facing much higher stakes. For these people the ANC isn’t a religion. It is an economy; self-contained, apparently disconnected from the economy of South Africa.
It is a system that keeps grandmothers and little children alive via social grants. It is the creator of bureaucratic jobs that allow the parents of those children to become employees and to send money back to those grandmothers. It is the granter of tenders – legal or not, it doesn’t matter – that can transform employees into randlords. The national economy, still wiping from its chin the last gravy of apartheid, is a distant, capricious thing to the tens of millions of South Africans who live in poverty on the periphery; but the ANC economy, ah, that is an immense, warm, pulsing heart, pumping out prospects and security and hope.
Why do so many people vote for the ANC? Rather ask: why wouldn’t they? Who, other than the EFF, would deliberately vote to destroy an economy?
Of course, this puts all of us in a vicious bind. For as long as the national economy flatlines, the ANC economy will be irresistible. For as long as the ANC economy exists, the national economy will flatline. Replacing one heart with another, without killing the patient, will be painful and slow.
Still, flinging insults at the rural poor will not speed up the process. And so, when the inevitable happens on May 8, let’s try to remember: it’s not stupid, it’s the economy.