The ANC fought for our liberation, but what has it done for us lately?
How sad, how mediocre that 25 years of democracy have left us with only one choice. It's our duty to change that this week
For those who have not met Cyril Ramaphosa, I have to tell you this: he is a hell of an impressive guy. He is witty, charming, extremely intelligent, thoughtful, entertaining, serious and considered.
It is hard to find fault with much he has done over the past 14 months of his tenure. He is cleaning up the corruption SA has suffered under; he is trying to restore the ANC to its old contradictory self; he is trying to stabilise the economy and begin the crucial task of creating jobs, removing poverty and lessening inequality; he makes the right noises about unifying an increasingly racially divided country. He is, most importantly, rebuilding our hollowed-out institutions, from the National Prosecuting Authority of SA to the SA Revenue Service.
He is surrounded by many vipers within the ANC, but he also brought back the delightful Tito Mboweni, Pravin Gordhan and a handful of others.
And so when the likes of The Economist magazine, investment banks like Goldman Sachs and other influential voices in SA and abroad say that Ramaphosa is SA’s best bet in this week’s elections, there is some reason to listen.
Yet there is something bizarre, perverse and absurd about these calls for all of us to support Ramaphosa and give him a strong hand to institute reforms within the ANC and the country. Why, I wonder, do I need to give Ramaphosa a 61% majority for him to do what’s right in the state and within his party? Why does he need an overwhelming majority for him to crack the whip within the ANC? He needs a 50% plus one – a simple majority, not an overwhelming majority. A 60% win is a blank cheque, whereas 51% is a “here’s a chance, don’t blow it”. The ANC has received too many blank cheques.
Back in 2014, I wrote here that if you love the ANC and the country then you should tell the ANC just how angry and unhappy you are with its behaviour and its presidential candidate: you should vote for someone else. Don’t stay at home, don’t spoil your ballot – tell the party that there are many other choices out there.
Why should it be that in 2019 Ace Magashule and Des van Rooyen get my vote when they represent absolutely everything that is reprehensible about our young democracy? They are Ramaphosa’s problem. If he cannot sort them out surely the ACDP, the Congress of the People or some other party can run the country better? Or the Democratic Alliance, which has done a very decent job of running the Western Cape. They have been marginally better at running Tshwane and the City of Joburg, too.
Are we so mediocre that this week we are telling the world that all we are left with is the ANC? How sad, how pitiful, how mediocre that 25 years of democracy has left us with only one choice. It is truly depressing.
The American politician Alben W Barkley once wrote of a rural voter he had worked diligently for in various capacities. He said he was shocked, after this life of service to this voter, to hear the voter say he was thinking of going with a different candidate. “How can you think of voting for my opponent?” asked Barkley. “Surely you remember all these things I have done for you?” “Yeah,” answered the voter. “But what in hell have you done for me lately?”
What, exactly, has the ANC done for SA lately? It has given us load-shedding; disrupted Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book launch, threatened to burn his book Gangster State; and overseen an incredible rise in unemployment, inequality and corruption since 2008. What, exactly, has the ANC done to deserve our votes – lately? Yes, it fought for our liberation. But, what has it done lately?
There is a warning for us in all this. There was a time when South Africans saw politics as the answer. They don’t think so anymore. Ten million South Africans have not registered to vote. Six million of those are young people.
Why? They think it’s all the same. They think that there really isn’t anyone meaningful to vote for. They have lost faith in our politics. And they have lost faith because we give them no real choices, we recycle the same old discredited players, and we tell them to go and vote. They won’t.
May 8 is a big day for SA. If you vote ANC, don’t forget to at least hold your nose because the stench of corruption and failure will be all over. If you go for others, vow to treat them differently to the way we are all guilty of giving the ANC too much power and too little accountability over the past 10 years.
Whatever you do, though, go and vote. Nelson Mandela and his comrades spent 27 years in prison for this. Voting is the least you can do.