Business Maverick

BUSINESS REFLECTION

After the Bell: My vote is not my secret — I’m going for Rise Mzansi

After the Bell: My vote is not my secret — I’m going for Rise Mzansi
Rise Mzansi leader Songezo Zibi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

On Wednesday at the ballot box, we make our choices out of habit and belief. It’s an extraordinary privilege and joy to vote in a democracy. And it’s precious.

Journalists typically don’t and shouldn’t say who they are voting for. There is a fiction around journalistic impartiality that is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. But I do think it should be observed, even imperfectly, because supporting the idea of impartiality alone is a useful indicator of honesty and fairness. 

I often want to ask people who scorn the idea – and there are many – what they would prefer: that, or something along the lines of, “We at the Daily Bark profoundly strive for reporting uselessness, data imperviousness, political partiality and journalistic dishonesty”? Heaven knows, it actually does sound like a lot of publications out there.

Anyway, I make this point because for once – just this once – I’m going to break the rule and be explicit about who I will be voting for tomorrow. 

I’m going to vote for Rise Mzansi.

It’s very rare to know a candidate for public office long before they become a politician. The leader of Rise Mzansi, Songezo Zibi, was a reporter at the Financial Mail when I became editor, so technically he worked for me for a bit.

“Worked for me” is a rather generous description of what Zibi did. He had this swanning thing: he would arrive on a cloud of humour and goodwill and immediately attend to a hectic schedule of meetings and discussions about politics, economics and business. He seemed to know everybody and often the only way to get him off his phone was by phoning him. But week in and week out, he would file insightful, astute, detailed, connected articles about topics broad and narrow.

He was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Zibi was a bit of an accidental journalist, having worked as a senior communications officer for several big companies, but a corporate takeover had suddenly left him without a perch. I always suspected he ended up at the Financial Mail as a bit of a lark. But his writing talent was obvious and his network was huge.

He also had an instinctive understanding and appreciation of business.

Somewhat irritatingly, he leapfrogged me and became the editor of Business Day, which, equally irritatingly, he handled with aplomb.

His insight and engagement were appreciated by the staff, and, with the possible exception of Peter Bruce, he was the most cherished editor of the publication in its history.

His superpowers were enthusiasm and generosity. 

Zibi did occasionally run into conflict with management – but for the best possible reasons: a desire for more and better staff. 

The balance of corporate politics was righted (at least from my selfish perspective) when I took over the helm of Business Day after he decided to leave, typically throwing himself at the wind since he didn’t have a clear plan.

Also typically, he landed up with a thumping job as the head of corporate communications for Absa.

And that meant he would see the inside of SA’s manufacturing, mining and banking industries in an astoundingly short career, working for VW, Xstrata and Absa.

Even knowing him fairly well, I struggle to define Zibi’s politics in typical left-right terms.

As long as I have known him, he has been a critic of the ANC and I suspect he is one of many whose sense of personal integrity is appalled by the tender-fest that the ANC has become.

But I think he is a supporter of what the ANC pretends to be and wants to be.

At the end of the day, I would say he is an exemplar of the centrist critique of the ANC’s broadly socialist policies, supportive in some ways, but reproving in others. He is also an exemplar of a youthful critique of the historic ANC. 

Earlier this year, we chatted on the phone and he explained his reasons for not joining the Multi-Party Charter; important among them was his desire to draw in the extraordinary number of potential voters who have despaired of the political system.

Eligible non-voters will be an important factor in the election, as they were last time around. 

This is not only smart politics, but Rise Mzansi has something the other mini-parties don’t: integrity, bucketfuls of smarts, a “not-part-of-the-system” demeanour and a youthful orientation.

On Wednesday at the ballot box, we make our choices out of habit and belief. It’s an extraordinary privilege and joy to vote in a democracy. And it’s precious. I wouldn’t judge anyone for voting for any of SA’s parties if they do so with honest intent. There are some good reasons, I suppose, for voting for any of them.

But I do think that above all, now, at this moment, SA needs to break the mould. And that, above all else, defines my choice. DM

The views and endorsement contained in this article are those of the writer and not those of Daily Maverick. As a media organisation, Daily Maverick has not endorsed any candidate or political party.

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