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Next year’s elections should be postponed, says former Statistician-General Pali Lehohla (Part One)

Next year’s elections should be postponed, says former Statistician-General Pali Lehohla (Part One)
Retired Statistician-General Pali Lehohla. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

Former Statistician-General Dr Pali Lehohla believes the past 15 years have been marked by a reversal of South Africa’s democratic gains. Next year’s elections should be postponed, he argues, to hold Codesa-like discussions on the country’s future.

South Africans should consider postponing next year’s general elections and instead hold “frank talks” involving all stakeholders to determine what kind of country they want to live in.

This is the view of Dr Pali Lehohla, academic and retired former Statistics SA chief, during a wide-ranging interview with Daily Maverick.

He said if the elections went ahead, South Africans could find themselves in even worse circumstances as wily politicians divvied up positions, perks and spoils and forgot about society at large.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

“South Africans of all races and creeds should wake up from the tormenting nightmare characterised by an unending darkness. As far as I am concerned, the 2024 elections should be postponed so that South Africans can have frank conversations about the country they want to build and live in. 

“We have to reset the horse so that it will be able to carry on its back the double load brought about and precipitated by accelerated failure in the latter half of our democracy. If we don’t, the elections will bring an outcome that will be nothing but calamity to all South Africans. 

elections pali lehohla

‘We now live in an era known as the Gwara-Gwara phenomenon era, where everyone is for himself or herself. The state of Madiba’s house in Houghton says it all,’ says retired Statistician-General Pali Lehohla. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

“The Chinese professor [Zhang] Weiwei defines the elections in free market democracies as a disease of ‘elect and regret’. This is the menu we have been served in the last 15 years. So a pause [is necessary] to ensure that leadership is not left to chance of ‘elect and regret’ and a hopeless wish for another market correction of ‘elect and regret’ in another five years,” he said.

Building the horse to fit the jockey

He said that towards the end of apartheid, when South Africa was faced with racial, ethnic and ideological civil strife, its salvation came in the form of the Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) talks, which ushered in the Constitution.

“Perhaps it is time we consider a similar intervention. We have to consider whether it would not be worthwhile to hold wide-ranging talks involving all stakeholders, including communities, civic groups, politicians, business and religious organisations to determine the future of the country we all love. 

“The leaders of the ’90s did this and it produced the South Africa and the Constitution under which we live today,” he said.  

Every 10 years, South Africa conducts a census which helps provide data to support decision-making and future planning. Lehohla said the reach of the census was “geographically extensive and engenders the basis for equity and judicious decision-making at all levels in space and time”.

Lehohla joined Statistics SA at its inception in the mid-90s and was head of the agency for 17 years, from 2000 until his retirement in 2017. He has held multiple international positions, including chairing the UN Statistical Commission and the African Symposium on Statistical Development. 

He defines the 30 years of SA’s democracy as, first, 15 fat years, characterised by social progress and economic growth, and then 15 lean years, characterised by regressive economic downturn, social and family degeneration and institutionalised corruption.

“In the first 15 years of democracy, there had been observable and definitive progress in the delivery of services and living conditions of South Africans. 

“The following 15 years have been marked by a clear reversal of the gains of democracy. 

“This reversal is more clear or acute in the municipalities across the country. The first 15 years of democracy showed progress in the delivery of services for all municipalities. But since 2011, a third of the municipalities have regressed. This is a clear contrast, similar to the biblical Genesis story of seven fat cows and seven lean cows,” Lehohla said.

He pointed to the instability of coalition governments in major cities and municipalities like Johannesburg and Pretoria as a harbinger of what is to come.

“Opinion polls predict that there would be one form of coalition or another at the national level. This outcome will further alienate communities, as politicians will be focusing on dishing out positions and other perks to each other and satisfying coalition partners and forgetting about society,” he said.

An insult to Madiba’s legacy 

Things are getting worse, he said.

“We now live in an era known as the Gwara-Gwara phenomenon era, where everyone is for himself or herself. The state of Madiba’s house in Houghton says it all. We need to pause and clean the algae, cut the overgrown grass, paint the walls and make Madiba’s home of last breath to be a South Africa we are all proud of.  We cannot go into an election and an affirmation of our democracy in a Madiba’s house that is full of filth. 

“Only filth and deeper filth will be an outcome should we take that gory step without cleaning and cleansing ourselves. Madiba’s home symbolises how low we have gone. Uncaring. Madiba’s place of last breath in Houghton captures that we as a people are now fit only for a pigsty,” he said. 

Lehohla believes the post-apartheid government — in which the ruling ANC has been in power, although there was a Government of National Unity from 1994 to 1999 — has not only failed the black majority through corruption, poor service delivery, nepotism, misguided, indiscriminate and uninformed deployment of cadres, and mismanagement of the economy in the latter 15 years, but has also failed the whole of Africa and Africans in the diaspora who looked up to South Africa as the barometer of the continent’s progress.

“There is nowhere in the world where a black government had so much goodwill from the world, the vast infrastructure, the natural resources, the skilled human capital to succeed, but they have squandered all these opportunities. 

“When you speak to African leaders, academics and thinkers, they say, ‘You guys had so much time to learn from our mistakes and ensure that you don’t repeat them, yet you went ahead and made even worse mistakes.’

‘We need to construct our horse’

“They say, ‘We had expected you to lead, to help Africa to prosper and take its rightful place in the world of nations, yet you went ahead and failed us.’ When the Pharaoh has no Joseph, when politics are devoid of technocracy, are devoid of a horse built by the people and not by the jockey, then society suffers a jeopardy of a horse and a jockey that owns the horse. We need a moment to pause and construct our horse. 

“The RDP [Reconstruction and Development Programme] and the NDP [National Development Plan] and the Constitution form the base for such a conversation. Our performance to date, especially the last 15 years, tells us of an anti-RDP, anti-NDP and anti-Constitution experience.  

“It was Madiba (upon receiving the results of Census ’96) who said South Africans are regarded highly by the world for managing a difficult transition and coming out successfully. He went further, to say South Africans are feted like kings: ‘Ordinary citizens are accorded such important treatment reserved for kings. Let us not disappoint those who pinned so much hope on us’. 

“I experienced this royal treatment. On a trip to Abidjan in 2007 we transited through Ouagadougou. They wanted a visa for non-diplomatic passport holders. My deputy, who was not travelling on a diplomatic passport, was to be denied entry. But as the official looked at the passport carefully where it is written in French — he went into a frenzy of a war cry: ‘Afrique de Sud, Bafana Bafana, Mandela, Mandela!’

“The passport was stamped and we slept in Ouagadougou and by the crack of dawn we were back at migration where the Mandela, Mandela, Bafana Bafana mantra guaranteed our passage to Abidjan,” Lehohla recalled.

Mbeki ‘best president’ so far

Lehohla said although the Mandela years focused on stabilising the country and building racial harmony, it was during Thabo Mbeki’s watch that the post-apartheid South Africa made the most economic and social strides.

“During Mandela’s years, there was stability, but the economy did not grow that much. The biggest economic strides ever recorded in apartheid and the post-apartheid era happened between 2001 and 2007,” he said.

This view is backed by statistics. An Industrial Development Corporation report stated: “The South African economy recorded its fastest growth rates since the 1960s over the period 2004 to 2007, with real GDP growth averaging 5.2% per annum. From a global perspective, this period was characterised by a strong bull market and booming commodities markets.”

An OECD report on South Africa stated: “In 2005, the South African economy experienced GDP growth of 5%, its highest since the end of apartheid, and strong GDP growth, estimated at 4.8%, is forecast for 2006. Although this good performance is due in part to a favourable international environment, it also reflects the sound economic policies that have been carried out since 1996 in accordance with the Growth and Employment and Redistribution strategy.”

Lehohla says it has been downhill from this peak. 

Things started to go wrong during the era of Mbeki’s successor, Jacob Zuma, when corruption reached unprecedented levels.

“During the era of the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, everything that went wrong during the Zuma years has got worse. Corruption at all levels is growing, we have relentless load shedding, criminals and crime syndicates are on the loose, and politicians and civil servants at all levels are using their positions to amass wealth for themselves and their families.

“These are all symbols that we are well and truly in the Gwara-Gwara era … things are getting worse and, if nothing is done to arrest this slide, South Africa could reach a point of no return,” said Lehohla. DM


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  • Hidden Name says:

    Sure, and why not simply put some strong man in charge backed by the military. Then we can do away with all those pesky political parties and opposition and become a 1 party state with regularly held forces called elections….with 1 candidate. Just like the Chinese. We are a democracy, that means we give people a chance to choose, we do not dictate to them that they should build a horse while everything that’s left is stolen. No, we give an opportunity to put a stop to that. And we sure as heck dont idolize Mbeki. What rock were you under that makes you believe he was a good leader? Or that his policies were worthwhile? Madiba rode a wave of good will and reconciliation. All the progress made was his legacy. The incompetents who followed him really shouldn’t be trying to take credit for that!

    • Niek Joubert says:

      I agree with you. Most of Lehola’s articles are of a black nationalist (code for racist) nature. He seems to deliberately miss the elephant in the room: BEE. The origin of mismanagement and corruption.

      • Glyn Morgan says:

        Right. If the present government is substandard, which it clearly is, vote them out. Vote for the party that has a good record of service. The only one with those credentials is the DA. It runs the Western Cape better than any other province is run. So, clearly the party to vote for is the DA.

        • Kanu Sukha says:

          Viva … Glyn Morgan for the maharajaship of the new Azania ! He should start his own party !

        • Malcolm Mitchell says:

          Glyn, whilst I am a decades long DA, in its various guises supporter and have acted as election agent for the party I unfortunately believe that the DA will never be the majority party in SA. I have lived for 88 years with my chosen party never been the majority, but I have learned to live with it.
          I support the proposal provided a government of national unity is installed during the talks. Regarding democratic votes in Africa, I am reading a book by Le Carre whilst fictional has an interesting comment about democracy in a country in Africa where Le Carre says “Elections won’t bring democracy, They’ll bring chaos. The winners will scoop the pool and tell the losers to ‘get lost but put more crudely.” This is what I am concerned for in 2024, an ANC and EFF alliance!

    • Sipho Shabalala says:

      Well said. ‘Nough said.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful insights Mr Lehohla. What a sad shame that the ANC have facilitated 15 “lean” years.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Madiba during his years in ‘office’ .. was mindful of how easily corruption could take hold and was thus able to say something to the effect of … ‘if the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did, you must do to it what you did with the apartheid regime’ ! Which is what ‘elections’ are meant to do . What this piece confirms … is that elections don’t always deliver that outcome. In my personal view … Mbeki has only himself to blame for being ‘removed’ before his term was over, primarily because of his adamant and unapologetic ‘garlic and beetroot’ stance .

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        Elections don’t deliver an outcome the electorate does by making choices. The quality of the SA electorate and the outcome of their choices are perfectly aligned.

        • Sipho Shabalala says:

          There has to be a choice. We do not have. And so these suggestions. Beyond choice, our challenge borders on being a societal problem. We need more than just knowing we can just vote.

      • Gerrie Pretorius says:

        It was tm’s anc that supported jz during his rape trial that initiated the fall of SA.

    • Temba Morewa says:

      ‘Talk is Cheap but Money Buys the Wiskey”, they say!
      Talk, talk, talk, talk,… With nothing happening!
      Election can make things happen if done as intended.

      • Andries Herholdt says:

        Amen! The ANC confuses talk and action. Another talking fest will bring the same promises that everything will be better – but nothing comes of it.

  • Thug Nificent says:

    Good article doc, as always, you never disappoint. Mbeki really messed up the HIV thing, but other than that, I’d also agree that it was under him where we saw optimal progress. Great analyses.

  • Reap what you sow
    They got what they wanted.
    Must be a happy place. And they will do it again. What a shame. But they don’t have any.

  • Andy Miles says:

    If we enforced the Constitution we have and Government and the entire public sector, was held accountable in terms of the legal and administrative frameworks that already exist, we would not be in the poor position we are. Presently there is virtually no political will to do this. No talk shop will make lazy and dishonest people change their ways. An environment of entitlement has been created, the expectation of the right to be given something, not having to participate and work to receive something – equal distribution is endlessly promoted when what is required is focus on equal opportunity and an environment allowing, supporting and encouraging individuals to be the best they can individually, and by doing so contribute to the greater good of us all.

    • Paul T says:

      Codesa was pre-democracy, Before the majority could vote. Now the power is in the hands of the people and their precious vote, but time and time again this vote is squandered. I’m not sure how talks are going to solve this problem.

      • Roger Burns says:

        My feeling is that the constitution was drafted to please the wider democratic world just to get into power with the western world`s backing. The deep rooted communist, socialistic and tribal views and beliefs clash with a democratic order so it was doomed to failure before it started. For the ANC it was and has always been about power which meant control. This country was destined to follow other African countries medium to long term outcomes after liberation because of power and greed and the masses who will continue to vote for the ANC just because they are seen as their liberators – even if they life in squalor. One of the first thing the ANC did was the removal of skilled whites to replaced by blacks (BEE/EE policies) from key positions in the first decade of liberation. As the saying goes the bigger they are the harder they fall and what was once a power house economy has slowly but surely crashed in a big way. The greed of the black political and business elite has strangled this countries growth potential and with the ANC in power there is no chance of a reversal.

  • astridtwomey says:

    Spot on!

  • Jennifer D says:

    Turning greedy pigs away from the feeding trough is way more difficult than one would think. They have tasted the truffles and we will struggle to make them stop. The work that Zondo did should have set a different path for SA but because the majority are at the trough there was no one to push them back. Who would do that now? Every day we hear a new story about someone in a position of trust who has betrayed the people he represents. There is no one trustworthy in government besides Zondo and our piggies would shoot him down in a heart beat.

    • Mike Lawrie says:

      Spot on.
      And it’s all done under the banner of our (totally screwed) constitution.

    • Gordon Bentley says:

      Lekae, Ntate Moholo, Pali Lehohla, I am also an Nkulu (of 76 years) born South African, I speak English, Afrikaans, some seSotho, and quite fluent isiZulu – I grew up as an amaZulu farm boy.

      Your well written article gives for much food for thought, you might have left out a few pertinent items, such as BEE but you have certainly stimulated and received many good comments from DM insiders. Not the normal hateful, rude, crude comments aimed at the group of “Piggies” in the ANC…

      I think the least the ANC can offer us, the people of South Africa, is an oppurtuity to talk in the inerests of a better South Africa, after all the suffering we, black and white, have endured under their rule – call it Codesa 3 if you will. But talk we All must. Even if it has to be forced by a referendum or international appeal after all the dirty washing has been revealed. We have loads of dirty washing documented…

      Rea leboha ha holo, Ntate Moholo, Pali Lehohla
      from Mambane (my IsiZulu name)

  • Iam Fedup says:

    While I agree with the logic of Mr. Lehola’s arguments, just one additional day of ANC dictatorship is one day too much. Get rid of them first, then let’s talk, because if there is one thing that they are really, really good at, (apart from criminality,) is endlessly talking. The time for urgent action is now.

    • virginia crawford says:


    • Geoff Coles says:


    • Ayanda Nonkwelo says:

      We cannot afford to postpone the elections, I agree with Iam Fedup. If we allow another period of thievery and wrongdoing, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot; consequently, the existing administration should be removed from all domains, and we may then have a mini Codesa.

      • Mark K says:

        With you 100% on that. I mostly agree with the article except for this point and two others:

        (1) I had a friend die from Mbeki’s lunacy about HIV/AIDS and Mbeki also seeded the weeds of corruption with the arms deal. He should be utterly ashamed of himself and certainly not praised in any public discussion.
        (2) Taking lessons from a member of the Chinese Communist Party about democracy is like seals taking lessons from a shark about survival in the ocean.

  • Martin Neethling says:

    It’s true that the latter part of our democratic era has been a failure, and indeed some frank talk should help, but suggesting that shifted outcomes and coalitions will ‘alienate communities is a leap too far. The latter era of failure was not a stand alone event. Its roots were set in the former era, when the ANC made fundamental choices about society, the state, the economy, and how it saw itself. These NDR prescriptions resulted in policies that have slowly yielded outcomes – bad ones – and only an election can change that.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Right. One thing tho’, all those new, tiny parties are a waste of time. They have all got great sounding policies, no doubt, but zero record of good delivery. The most efficient way to sort out the ANC/EFF is to vote for the DA.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I believe that their could be merit in a Codesa 2. However, the problem is that the country cannot afford another couple of years under the spineless, incompetent Ramaphosa and his cohort.

  • virginia crawford says:

    I agree with much of your analysis except that I believe Mbeki laid the foundations for what came next: Hiv/ AIDS denial as a racist plot, the arms deal and the Africanist agenda. Couple that with the loyalty shown to Tony Yengeni and others of his ilk, for a clearer analysis. Expecting frankness from ” our leaders” the ANC is like preparing for a snow next week: it ain’t gonna happen. Talk before and persuade people to vote out the ANC and the former ANC darling, Malema.

  • mike van wyk says:

    A lightly veiled threat from a ANC ‘beneficiary’ that did a very effective job at kneading numbers to support his ‘clubs’ failings over the last 30 years. The ANC’s future as the ruling party hangs in the balance – so his ‘solution’ seems let’s talk a bit more about shifting the goal posts. Possibly Ramaphosa’s proverbial ‘frog’ is not getting ‘cooked’ fast enough?

  • johan.dewet905 says:

    Never have I heard a more true reflection of our past and present and future prediction of what has happened and what is happening and what is going to happen if we do not heed the calls of our retired Statistician-General Pali Lehohla.
    Every concerned person old and young in this motherland of ours should turn to the person next to him or her and convince them and teach them and bring them in the fold of what the Madiba era ment to us all and what mess we are in now and what need to be done to ensure a future for our children.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Madiba was at least wise enough and helped by his friend Tutu’s insights, to know it would not last ! Nothing does. Hence his admonishment about “if the ANC does to you … “

  • Stephanie Brown says:

    I think one of the world’s biggest challenges today is that we are so entrenched in ideologies. We dismiss the ideas here because of the writer’s real or perceived ideological alignment instead of engaging with the ideas. We need new ways of thinking, new ways to engage.

  • Deon Van Vuuren says:

    Dr Phali we dont need this conference, we just need to do what the Westren Cape is doing, good govenance with people qualified qualifications for the key jobs, not because of kadership in a party, race, color or any other reason. Only then you will see South Africa rise again from the ashes.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:


      CODESA 1 was the least democratic assembly of bodies to determine our future that you can imagine – not one of these representatives was freely elected by the people of South Africa – African National Congress, National Party, Ciskei Government, National People’s Party, Democratic Party, Solidarity, Dikwenkwentla Party, South African Communist Party, Inyanda National Movement, Transkei Government, Intando Yesizwe party, United People’s Front, Labour Party South Africa, Venda Government, Natal/Transvaal Indian Congress, Ximoko Progressive Party.

      CODESA 2 was a dismal failure. What makes Lehohla think a CODESA 3 will achieve anything other than an opportunity for the ANC to embed itself as a firm 1 party government? We don’t need another undemocratic conference of the “people” – we need ALL South Africans to wake up, face reality, and vote for competent honest governance.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    But the problem in the woodpile would leave the rats still in control.

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      Nooit, Bru!
      I really, really hope you are unaware of the correct version of the figure of speech you are using and this is just an unhappy accident. Might be best to delete your comment.

      • Alan Watkins says:

        🙂 I used that expression years ago thinking, incorrectly in un PC times, that it meant “the problem in the whatever”. What I really meant was the fly in the ointment.

  • mike van wyk says:

    Discussion or further negotitaion will not change the course SA is on – a course well set on self-enrichment, entitlement and brinkmanship of the highest order. The ANC always had examples north of SA to draw on for guidance, but that seems to have been ignored. Unfortunately the path we on can only lead to further strife and possible economic collapse. The brief economic bouncy highlighted was largely due to pent up demand being satisfied, however what the country needs is sustainable growth which can only be achieved without the leg-irons imposed by the ANC (BEE). Democracy can only reach full potential partnered by a free and unfettered economy with far less state interference. A good example to follow from a policy position would be Argentina. Reduce the size of government; reduce state spending in all areas other than infrastructure development; remove all race-based exclusionary/benefaction policies; promote at all level true open and free economy. If these steps are taken, the poorest members of society will benefit far more than they currently do. Social progress can only be achieved through equal access to opportunity – opportunities that are self-generated not state generated. Sadly all these are known but the will to act is zero, as it is too easy to continue feeding on what’s left of the rotting carcass than hunt afresh.

  • Lordwick Mamadi says:

    The fact that he quote a Chinese Professor to substantiate his drivel about elections – then it sums up his true intentions. China isn’t a democracy, so his Weiwei quote is completely irrelevant in this regard. As an ANC cadre who loves feed off from taxpayers, his intention is to propose gimmicks that will ensure that his beloved ANC remains in power indefinitely because he’s scared that they might lose power in the next election.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      You are perfectly correct Pophi. It is no secret that the ANC leadership prefers the Chinese view of Western style democracy as a “a disease of ‘elect and regret’ “.

      In its stead, when Lehohla says ” … a pause [is necessary] to ensure that leadership is not left to chance of ‘elect and regret’ and a hopeless wish for another market correction of ‘elect and regret’ in another five years”, what he and the ANC want is so obviously a Chinese style autocracy without the trouble of elections.

    • Mark K says:

      Pali Lehohla always struck me as one of the more reasonable people when he was in government. I didn’t always agree with him, but I could understand his thinking at least. There are reasonable points in this article, but they are undermined by gaps – the most glaring being the one you mention. As I’ve written elsewhere, taking lessons about democracy from a member of the Chinese Communist Party is like a seal taking lessons from a shark about how to survive.

  • Johan Buys says:

    And so it begins : the ANC will buy or steal or defer the election

  • Sandra Botha says:

    This is one of the best articles I have read on the state of our country. It should be far more prominent instead of hidden away at the bottom of this post.

  • sibusile says:

    Everyone for himself or herself is pointedly so true from hereon. I share the same sentiment. Indeed everyone will worry about their immediate families while politicians grossly pickpocket the country. But as always, the power is with the citizens to vote wisely. As we all know, when cannot think wisely from an empty stomach hence politicians will always amass votes from the hungry due to empty promises of plates full of food.

  • Rae Earl says:

    The only party capable of running South Africa right now is the DA. It has the ability, expertise and discipline to do for SA exactly what it accomplished when it wrested control away from the ANC in the Western Cape. Had that not happened, Cape Town would now be in the same condition as Durban, Pretoria, JHB, East London, Mangaung, and others. In a nutshell, wracked by in-fighting, corruption, failed municipalities, and widespread unemployment and poverty. Vote the ANC into power next year and watch the ongoing and complete disintegration of our country.

  • Peter Merrington says:

    Straight talk from a man who has the full picture. Tough and candid. A major warning to the present sad government. Voters, vote for change and real progress. Vuka, vukani. Wake up people.

  • Steve Du Plessis says:


  • Derek Jones says:

    No way do we wait. The ANC is weak now, and while so they must be booted and exposed. More time given to them will mean an opportunity to recover an advantage somehow. General Pali Lehohla you have not understood that the priority for South Africa is to get the ANC out of power. Once that is done we can re build.

  • Musa Ndlovu says:

    I support the suggestion of a multiparty discussions around our country and the future there of. It’s long overdue. We’ve been held at ransom by the oldies of the ANC who negotiated this nonsensical agree ent with apartheid government and ended up without economic power. We must start afresh and trloiki to that constitution and where it has failed us. Ask questions why we still run our country in a Roman Dutch law whilst the majority of people are African and in an African country. We must change these things. African law is not about punishment and evil like this Roman Dutch law. It’s more about ubuntu and nation building. I am because you are umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. That is what will move us forward

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      Absolute nonsense. Like the article, this comment is nostalgia for something that never existed. It is very clear to all and sundry that, these days, ‘Ubuntu’ simply means, “Fuck you, I’m eating”.

  • Paul Alberts says:

    Now that the shoe is almost on the other foot. He did not utter a single word when he was in government, perhaps your pay slip shut your mouth.

  • Mike Meyer says:

    100 percent correct Johan. This is the beginning of a program to try and delay elections indefinitely

  • Lesiba Langa says:

    It is a thoughtful piece. I agree that we need to pause and build the horse. But, I do not agree with the approach and proposal that we must postpone the elections. It is a constitutional imperative to hold elections every five – year term. A pause in the manner proposed by the Dr, will be unconstitutional. You will have to amend the SA Constitution.
    Secondly, the current National Assembly will have to be dissolved meaning that there will be no government which means that the military must take over. This will present a leadership gap and crisis. We come from an apartheid military – like government and I do not think that the Dr is longing for such a set up. Why are we fearful that the voters can turn this country around? The voters have a powerful weapon to change the destiny of this country. Political parties and NGOs must work tirelessly to educate voters about the POWER of their VOTE. They should be empowered to decide on their future rather that usurp their will. The 2024 national elections should go ahead!

  • Mvisto Mkiva says:

    This is racist, condescending and disgusting. Has the person who is supposed to screen vile comments like already gone on leave?

    • Anon Anon says:

      I agree this is gross. One only needs to read the article to see why…

    • Bob Kuhn says:

      But the truth….just look around you Mvisto!

    • Anon Anon says:

      Maybe the poster should self reflect on their prejudices

    • Anon Cowherd says:

      What exactly about it is racist?

      He was speaking about a “cultural blindspot”. You don’t have to agree with his assessment, but that doesn’t automatically make it racist.

      Culture and race are two different things, unless you believe that culture is somehow biologically/racially determined, which itself would be a racist position to take.

      If cultures are beyond all criticism, then there really is no hope for us of ever improving society. Criticism and dialogue is necessary for us a society figure out the truth.

      If someone criticized Afrikaners for their Calvinistic beliefs (as happens fairly often), perhaps implying that the Calvinistic belief in predestination isn’t compatible democratic ideals, will you also call that racist?

  • Martin Molteno says:

    The ANC has 4 times proven itself Hopelessly incompetent and dishonest…What is the point of having discussions with a hopelessly dishonest incompetent. ??? If they succeed in rigging the election and get in again, then SA is indeed destroyed.

  • Skinyela Skinyela says:

    Dangerous idea, although well-meaning.

    You will have to suspend the constitution first in order to be able to postpone the elections.
    There is no need for a discussion to decide what kind of country we want, that was done at CODESA and is codified in the act 108 of 1996,just implement it and deal with those who violate it.

    There is a reason why US presidential elections have never been delayed, even during a world war. An ANC faction called premier league tried to extend the term of office Zuma’s ANC presidency under the guise of ‘aligning the ANC term of office with that of the RSA president term’ , they failed. It was a dangerous move. IEC tried to delay the 2021 local government elections on account of covid-19, the Constitutional Court correctly declined that prayer from the IEC.

    Maybe what must be done is amend the constitution so that it provides for binding coalition agreements.

    • Andrew Martens says:

      Agreed. It is not a mystery what people want. And making elections ‘optional’ is not to be tolerated.
      The politicians must figure coalitions out, and the voters must punish those that misbehave.

  • 🆑 🆑 says:

    Postponed elections will mean only one thing: ANC dictatorship.

    Which will in turn mean only one thing: the end of democracy for SA.

  • Michael Bowes says:

    Good idea! And the reason we can’t do this after the election is……?

  • D Rod says:

    Well spoken, Sir. Sadly, as a country, we missed the boat…

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Just because the ANC is racist (BEE et al) does NOT mean that you can be racist. Matthew Quinton, please contact the Editor and request that he deletes the your comment.

    • Hidden Name says:

      How is this racist, please? I don’t follow your argument? I should think you can challenge the assumptions, but knee jerk labeling it racist is a bit of a stretch.

  • Sam van Coller says:

    Clearly an impractical proposal. We have to hang our coats on the Constitution. However don’t ignore the writer’s commentary. He was a very independent Statistician General and thinks from his base of stats. He is not a social or political scientist or commentator. His warning, as I read it from looking at the stats, is that the country’s downward trend has its own momentum which will be accelerated by coalitions headed by politicians who do not have the qualities of leadership to reverse this process. To turn South Africa round, we will have to look to other institutions that carry power outside the political arena – business (and don’t forget the critical role of agriculture in this category), faith organizations, civil society ngo’s as he has suggested – but not through Codesa 3. There is a great deal that can be achieved by these institutions to impact on both the political arena and the lives of us ordinary people. I wish I could add trade unions but they have lost their way. He is warning that we cannot look to people power through the ballot box in the short term. Their contribution will be in the streets when conditions become absolutely intolerable.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    There is something that all these commentators, but especially those that find themselves in the pro-ANC circles have to wake up to and smell the coffee. That is that the decline did NOT start with Zuma’s presidency. As long as everyone wants to go back to the Thabo Mbeki era, they are in denial of the truth. All of this started while Mbeki was the President, and some of it actually while he was still deputy President and Mandela gave him the reigns of government. It is no use for Mbeki to now deny that his government instructed Eskom not to build any more generation capacity – he openly admitted that it was the case about 15 years ago and other evidence about it exists as well. The corruption also got momentum during the Mbeki years – does nobody remember Jackie Selebi’s corrupt time as the Commissioner of Police any more? It was also in that time that the ANC youth movement learnt all the corrupt practices that they (much older now) are applying now. Also, that was when the BOSASA scam started. Ditto the decay in municipalities; I was a councillor from 2000 and I personally experienced what happened; it was also in that time that the disastrous “VIP eradication project” saw thousands of homes immersed in sewerage. Lastly, under who’s watch did Zuma grow in political stature until he could become president? The truth is that it is the African Nationalist way of thinking, that came with Mbeki AND Zuma from Lusaka in the early ’90’s that is now causing all the problems.

  • Andrew Martens says:

    I would say that the country is exactly on track – there is change in the air (hope even?). Change is risky, but we need it badly. I would propose having the elections sooner if anything.

    There are downsides to democracy. However, I trust the average person in this country more than I trust councils of intellectuals and politicians. And choosing to make elections ‘optional’ and fungible is not to be tolerated.

  • Steve Price says:

    This suggestion is anti democratic. Why should a band of people sit round a table and decide the country’s future. The whole country must decide the future ie vote in an election. This idiotic suggestion has only come about because the ANC can not confront the possibility of losing.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . The truth is also that, during CODESA, it was not just the ANC that had a say. They had to accommodate all the 70 or 80 organisations from all sides of society that were taking part and the principle of relative consensus was used to force both the ANC and NP to give way to sensible proposals. That is why the Constitution is working as well as it does when it is applied; and probably also why the ANC is trying its’ best not to apply it, dodging the responsibilities that the Constitution gives it all the time. Which is more, dr. Pali, in 1994 there was no interruption of elections; right from 1989, even before the ANC was unbanned, it was cast in stone that in 1994 there had to be an election, and that a new Constitution had to be in place by then, and that was what was done. That the need for consistency in elections was respected was a major reason why the political transition worked out so peaceful and successful, because it gave the voters some security and pressurized the politicians to do their job. And so it is with our current system. If the elections are called off, it will be the end of SA as we know it; you may think that a country can’t fall further down than Zimbabwe in the 2000’s, but if the elections are called off, we may well find that a country can fall even further down than that. No, what should happen is that the ANC of both Mbeki and Zuma should be kicked out so that it can die – then at least there is a possibility of a new dawn!

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    So we fix the country by suspending democracy? I don’t think that approach has a strong track record of success especially in our neck of the woods. We are a nation with a substandard electorate and that’s not going to change by having an ‘all stakeholders’ talk shop.

  • Roger Burns says:

    An insightful article but to stop and ask citizens what they want is futile. Satisfy the basic conditions of the constitution will be a good start but this country is in such a mess that that “start” will take a decade and more to show results and this country does not have that time. The ANC neither has the competency nor will to bother to make the changes everyone needs and wants and they know it. The rot in government is so deep that the ANC must go. The only stakeholder the ANC is interested in is the ANC. That totally corrupt liberation organisation is of no good to this country any more. Even the moral and ethical ANC “elders” are sitting back and watching too afraid and with not enough conviction to condemn their glorious organisation except for a few uttering once and awhile.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    not a bad call. The way this cart is presently tipping is not towards a better SA. The reality is that the ANC will not be defeated at the poll in 2024, but the country cannot survive another ANC administration. Democracy only really works when the electorate is educated enough to make informed decisions. I would support a Codesa like intervention – or even a GNU – for one term provided it is not lead by the ANC.

    • Denny Moffatt says:

      Carsten is correct. An unholy alliance between the ANC and EFF could happen. A bad outcome. Alternatively all the rats and mice parties hoping for political power, from Good down might make up the numbers.
      As usual the battle is to get voters to the polls.
      This election is way beyond race and traditional support.
      Are South Africans rational enough?
      We have to hope so. But threats around stopping grants and the “progress” made in providing housing, the bizarre NHI and fixing SOE’s will attract traditional support.
      Perhaps political parties should include committing to a national debate?

  • Anon Nona says:

    The headline worried me at first, but after reading the entire post, I can’t say I disagree.

  • Joe Soap says:

    Said loud and clear. South Africa’s problem is corrupt and incompetent politicians, and next year we vote for them. How about direct democracy, rather than representational democracy. We don’t need corrupt and incompetent politicians to represent us.

  • Philip Machanick says:

    The Mbeki years weren’t all good. The arms deal set the stage for future corruption (if started in the Madiba era). Then there was the disastrous HIV policy. Current failures in basic education built on failures going back to all previous presidents.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Yellow suited, RET, evangelist, calls for an end to elections.

  • dhiagan says:

    “He said if the elections went ahead, South Africans could find themselves in even worse circumstances as wily politicians divvied up positions, perks and spoils and forgot about society at large.”

    Has this man been asleep the past few decades?

  • njotid says:

    Sad but true.
    Opposition parties will not allow a postponement as they see a chance to unsit the ANC in the next elections

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    The diagnosis of what is ailing the nation appears accurate, but the suggested treatment is rather suspect. I would suggest, instead:

    “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
    — Anon (maybe Dick Nolan in the San Francisco Examiner, definitely not Mark Twain)

    So, in practice:
    1. First increase electoral competition between the parties and thus their accountability to voters ‒ they should fear losing their positions, and it should take an extraordinary performance to keep them.
    2. Then force them to separate the way the legislative branch and the executive branch are currently elected together. MPs need to be elected from constituencies ‒ but we need run-offs until a candidate gets over 50% ‒ and Parliament should NOT get to appoint the President (and by extension, the rest of the executive). Parties who won’t support this change must get hammered at the polls until it is done.
    3. This should lead to MPs being forced to find better ways to hold the executive to account in Parliament. Because their seats are on the line. And because they are more beholden to the voters than to their parties.
    4. Give the public a way to withdraw their support from an MP by petition. Even if it’s 50k signatures needed ‒ it should be possible to force them to stand for re-election, even midterm. To avoid chaos, maybe it can only be used once per MP per term.

    CODESA was good, but not perfect. It was also for politicians, by politicians.

  • Johan69 says:

    Brilliant analysis Mr Lehohla. I think you have hit the nail on the head. I do feel a new order is needed. Perhaps the problem is that we are not a Nation but a conglomerate that can never be herded together. Perhaps a break-up along tribal lines is a more sensible solution. More manageable. I fully agree that politics must do politics and technocrats must provide the services within the regulatory framework. Civil Sevants caught in corruption should get double sentences. Politicians should get 5X sentences.

  • Peter Baker says:

    This conclusion (that we should postpone elections) is utter garbage and steps us off a cliff. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. Your desire to “save” the country is nothing but hubris and, frankly, evil. If the people want poverty, let them have it. You have no right to take that away from them.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    Whilst one agrees with some of the issues that Pali Lehohla raises, one has a difficulty with his call for postponement of the elections given that you would need an amendment of the Constitution. This was the situation in 2021 when the IEC tried the trickery and the courts pronounced. The opposition would never accept an opportunity to pass them to bring the ANC under 50 percent. The other problem one has I think Pali needs to b frank that the country is where it is because of the ANC and a dialogue that will be seen to be an attempt to save the ANC from its worst electoral outcomes is not going to wash with the opposition parties. I agree with him that the elections are going to be bringing a lot of difficulties for the country and it is perhaps the medicine the country needs. You are not going to expect a seamless transition from a one party that has dominated the political landscape for decades and mismanaged and ransacked the country. It would be hallucinations to think like that. I think in politics there is no room for those who have hallucinations as we have to deal with realities. Political parties are going and ought to act in their interests and the notion that they act in the broader interests of society is just a mirage that he peddles from time to time. It is in the best interest of the party to deliver services, deal with corruption and ensure proper governance so that the electorate can return them again.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      “The other problem one has I think Pali needs to b frank that the country is where it is because of the ANC”

      Nope, that’s blame shifting. The country is where it is because of the muppets who have kept the ANC in power. Same as apartheid was the fault of the delusional people who voted to keep the Nats in power to implement it.

      • Chris Mpofu says:

        I agree, there is a level of voter literacy required. There is also a lack of a viable opposition that represents a broad swath of the population.

  • Firoz Khan says:

    In the new 2024 Masters Elective, the School of Public Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch will explore the limits of our post-apartheid democratic and development models, culling insights and lessons from history and experience – here and internationally – for reform, renewal and overhaul. For the module description and list of confirmed speakers, please copy and paste in your browser (

  • mongetane says:


  • Chris Mpofu says:

    It is interesting how short the memories of all those who talk about the “blacks” and their “tribal” views are. Nothing could be more tribal than the apartheid system. That system classified everyone by tribe, and declared a certain tribe superior to others.
    Corruption is quite simply a human characteristic. It is not a specific trait of black people. I live in the western world and believe you me corruption is everywhere. The main difference is that the institutions put in place to deal with it actually work, they do their job.
    There is also a blind spot for those singing the praises of Western Cape, and especially Cape Town. I was there recently, and travelled widely. White privilege accosted me everywhere. In restaurants, white people dined, and black people served. On buses, white people rode, and black people drove. Apartheid is alive and well – it’s no longer political, but economical, and if Western Cape is our example of success, then we’ve missed the mark. Black people are still suffering in SA, and until we find a way for white people to ogive up some of their ill-gotten privilege, no change of government will solve anything.

    • Senzo Moyakhe says:

      Chris, your comments regarding the ‘Western Cape blind spot’ is priceless. Look at the demographic composition of those who sing the Western Cape praises in these DM comments and you will see a deep undercurrent that speaks to a nostalgia of how things were. That scenario persists in Cape Town. The DA stays in power in the Western Cape principally how the ANC stays in power in SA, a disillusioned Black majority that just could not be bothered to vote, because voting has brought no discernible improvement in their conditions. Cape Town townships are not substantially different from what was the Apartheid reality. The areas that run smoothly in Cape Town are the old GAA “White” suburbs and economic enclaves.

      It also talks to what are sometimes brutal opinions professed here about EC to WC – especially to Cape Town – migration. As the numbers of these people swell and the expanse of these shack dominated settlements grows, it is not inconceivable that a revolution against these well-defined physical demarcations of privilege might arise. Look at the ructions around the train track shack removals as a pointer. The taxi strike is another. Agent provocateurs like the EFF leadership are not incognisant of these scenarios.

      The persistent inability to overcome the gangsterism that dominates the ‘Coloured’ community landscape is another pointer.

      Finding a way for White people to give up their economic hegemony is impossible, no-one will release what they feel is rightfully theirs.

  • Johan Buys says:

    we can talk, but before we talk we should vote and decide who speaks for how many.

  • Sipho Shabalala says:

    I agree with all of the wisdom expressed by Dr Lehohla, bar one. Thabo Mbeki was our worst president on many (not all) accounts.

    Mbeki failed the country in a fundamental way. He did not create a new solid floor akin to a foundation Mandela had set. Mandela set a peace, identity, national patience and unity foundation. We are still benefitting from that foundation.

    Mbeki is party to and originated (directly or otherwise, maybe and hopefully not intentionally) many things that we experience as real challenges today.

    1. He gave us Jacob Zuma when he stood against him in Polokwane, when two terms were a limit in government and, therefore, that would have created a two centres of power if he were re-elected ANC President.

    2. It was Thabo Mbeki’s ANC that allowed a convicted corruption and fraud criminal in Tony Yengeni to return to parliament in a senior position. This said to everyone else the (entrench corruption) game was on. And corruption has become endemic.

    3. His other greatest and most felt failure was on electricity. He was warned many years earlier of the looming power shortage in 2007/2008. He had a 10 year advanced warning. He is an economist, he was tryig to grow an economy through assimilation of blacks jnto the mainstream of the economy – power would be a key of key enablers and sustainers of that growth and economy.

    4. The failures of the municipalities began in his time. Why, as an economist, did he and his cabinet not set up and initiate progressive and stringent qualifications for municipal managers, accountants, even mayors and other key roles to attract and retain educated talent in municipalities? Why?

    I will not mention basic education, higher educarion health, the police, the road infrastructure, ill-considered and ill-timed privatization, the badly executes and ill-advised reduction in personal tax rates and more. He failed us. He was our worst. I just cannot write an entire book here.

    Mbeki’s economic growth success would have been enjoyed by any president. As Dr Lehohla correctly acknowledges it that the global commodities boom was a thing.

    As if South Africa was being seduced, warmed up and introduced to a coming calamity, the next presidents simply provided icing on the cake Mbeki had baked. The stage was set and the game was on. The years following Mbeki were a horrible, fast, felt and painful deterioration of our country.

    The institutions, instruments, gaurds and the Constitution set up by Mandela (whether or not effectively Mbeki ran government as it is suggested, is immaterial) kept this country going.

    The two presidents after Mbeki are no good. They are total failures.

    Properly considered, it would be possible to argue for treason on all past and current elected SA state presidents and possibly many of their cabinets ministers. Their actions and inactions have led to whole erosion of the country’s gains within one generation and have caused or maintained deaths and life suffering of countless people and families.

    It is criminal.

    Only Nelson Mandela did his job and delivered on his mandate. The rest failed. Dr Lehohla spoke admirably and correctly on expressing the failures of the past 15 years, but Mbeki was key.

    Mbeki’s only softener is that he made bad office decisions. Jacob Zuma attacked and destroyed national institutions. This is totally inexcusable of JZ.

    CR failed his first and only test — Covid-19 — so badly, I have never recovered from it.

    Today we have no choice to vote for. A coalition will be our death knell. These are extraordinary times and we are at a crossroads among to the end of Apartheid.

    We need a proper and well-considered reset. This postponement is required and necessary as an extraordinary measure. I agree with Dr Lehohla on this point.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Had to laugh at Mbeki being ” the best president”! I think that the writer meant “least worst”. After all, he still thinks that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS… and his minister actively encouraged the eating of African potatoes and garlic to avoid it… And washing his sub, Kakop earned his Shower credentials…yet here we are! “Best president” hahahaha

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    The anc comrades are like Hamas….”please let’s talk. ….we are losing”

  • Louis Fourie says:

    Cadre says what?

  • I highly appreciate the contents and information contained in this Daily Maverick. I totally agree for the postponement of elections 2024. If we can have true and unselfish leadership in our country, this was going to be possible.

  • jonathanc9511 says:

    It’s time for change. The ANC has proved itself inept.

  • Andrew Johnson says:

    The problem is how long will this Codeas Mk II take, years? in which time the ANC will plunder even more of whatever is left.

  • Josie Rowe-Setz says:


  • Henry Simonsen says:

    It is apparent that the provision of jobs is paramount.
    Jobs are a product of investment.
    Investment is subject to certain requirements.
    These include a good return on the investment at an acceptable level of risk.
    It is required that the country for such investment must provide a better opportunity for financial returns than competing alternatives.
    It’s kind of self-evident.

  • Ian Dewar says:

    The Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP) gave SA the negotiated settlement in 1993, not CODESA 1 0r 2.

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