Opinionista Carien Du Plessis 19 August 2011

Be the change you want to see – join the ANC

No really, I’m serious. Get yourself a credit card sized one in black, green and gold. If you want to make a difference, you should be in the game. Not screaming on the sidelines.

Ask those blokes who splintered from the ruling party. It’s getting close to the third anniversary of their divorce, and where are they now? By all accounts the former proud premier of Gauteng is all but coping, while the Terror, once an invincible ANC chairman, hasn’t been heard shooting his mouth off about anything useful for a while. What change have they really made to date, other than give a million voters hope in 2009 and then ruining it spectacularly for them. The ANC election campaign that year was also pretty glam, thanks to them.

The NFP and IFP don’t bear speaking about. If they continue on the murderous track they’re on, there won’t be anyone left in KwaZulu-Natal that’s not a Jacob Zuma voter.

The DA claims to offer alternative cronies to the ones in government. They might also be right about being the party of the future, but you have to be into serious long-term planning – and we live in a country where most politicians don’t even know if they’ll still be president next week or not. Sure, the DA’s growing, and pretty nicely too, but at a snail’s pace. They took a few more municipalities and wards in the May local government elections, gave the ANC a well-deserved run for its money in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and have the Western Cape provincial government in its bag.

DA support grew by almost 8% in this year’s elections, from just over 16% in 2006, to just under 24% now. You have to give it to Helen Zille and her team – it was a textbook campaign. Of course, she did it with a little help from her more-than-just-a-friend, Patricia de Lille. Their first anniversary went by almost unnoticed on Monday this week. The wedding was a matter-of-fact ceremony in the decidedly uncharming Kempton Park Civic Centre. The bubbly was missing, and heck, the only food I can remember were two spongy long-life rolls in plastic wrappers kindly rescued from somewhere for me by a sensible DA “tannie”.

The DA’s chairman of the federal executive James Selfe had to field champagne questions from yours truly, and instead of a cork he somewhat nervously cracked a joke, saying it wasn’t quite the right time to party. The alliance involved a whole lot of family members and the more the messier. So we celebrated with bottled water instead.

Now, just over a year later, the partners are so caught up in the politics of their respective offices that they’re too busy for festivities, so my guess is there won’t be bubbly for the anniversary either. Anyway, Western Cape Premier and DA leader Helen Zille was this week unromantically busy crafting responses to newspaper allegations of tender maladministration by her government, while mayor Patricia de Lille in the City of Cape Town was dodging rubbish missiles and dousing dustbin flames as municipal workers went on their annual rampage.

But the men in the party – or at least two of them in Parliament, Selfe, and the ID’s parliamentary leader Joe McGulwa – had time for a congratulatory handshake, but decided to postpone celebrations to next Tuesday, when they share a birthday.

Three ID MPs are left in Parliament, like museum pieces, where they are now fully part of the DA’s caucus, but in municipalities the integration has been complete and the orange ID politicians are now all DA blue.

The local elections sealed the DA-ID union gloriously, but also brought with it the marriage’s first real test as a jostling for positions caused one or two ID guys to leave in a huff. There were pockets of unhappiness within the DA too, but nothing beyond what’s normal.

DA analysts reckon the parties delivered more than the sum of their parts and the DA-ID union has grown South Africa’s biggest opposition party into a force big enough to scare ANC leaders into nasty, racist electioneering expletives. The DA is no doubt already preparing the offensive for the 2014 elections, and hopes to take over from the ANC by 2024 or thereabouts. But that’s still 13 years away, if such a day will ever come.

The ANC’s support might have been dropping, but at 63% (in May’s elections) it still commands a staggering majority of the vote.

Zille might be great, powerful, well-dressed and a political genius, and her DA might be doing invaluable work on proving good governance and monitoring the ANC government, but no amount of toyi-toying on her part will get her the president she wants, if that choice differs from the ANC’s.

Next year, when the ruling party goes to its elective conference to choose a new (or old) leader for themselves and the country, Zille will not even have a vote. She and all the increasingly shrinking smaller parties in Parliament are still mere spectators to the real business of ruling this country.

They should join the ANC. A one-party-state is a game everyone can play and the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe would be elated if the party hit its million-member target. After all, the ANC’s policy isn’t that monstrous, and except for a few smart gimmicks, the DA’s views don’t differ much. And whatever you don’t like in ANC policy, you can always change. It’s a very democratic organisation – I’ve seen it in action at conferences. Not like the DA’s cosmetic el-cheapo one-day events where everyone comes to rubberstamp a TV-dinner policy.
There’s always a lot of discussion in the ANC, and a tendency of late that, if the majority doesn’t hear you the first time, you can shout a bit and storm the stage. Then they’ll listen.

Imagine, for instance, where the media tribunal would be if all the country’s journalists were ANC members and managed to get themselves into the ANC’s media policy commission. We might just have had the media tribunal censored. Or if all the boere from AgriSA came to the commission on land expropriation, Julius Malema wouldn’t stand a chance.

Speaking of which, even the ANC Youth League knows that you have to be in there to make a change. At its conference in June, Malema said the lion cubs should go and “swell the ranks” of the ANC, which means its members (many of them young and unemployed with a lot of time to spare) will go to branch meetings and get themselves on the delegation to Mangaung next year, where they’ll vote for the president Malema wants.

If the Youth League can do it, why can’t those middle-classes who regard themselves as sensible, intellectual and rational (outside of any mentions of Juju’s name) do it too? It’s child’s play, and those very nice, but silent people who are still hanging in there in the ANC, will thank you for it. Now is the time. DM


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