Each week we are reminded how poorly South Africans are served by their elected representatives and the governments that they have been entrusted to establish and lead. Instead, we are confronted by people who are not driven by service, but rather by a deep desire to line their own pockets, build their own brand and are only guided by self-interest and posturing.
There is little doubt that South Africans are exhausted by the ongoing deception and shenanigans of individuals who continue to hold on to positions of authority and influence even though they should have no place in the public square. South Africa’s lost decade of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is not the only reason South Africans have become disillusioned as delinquency, truancy and disregard for accountability extends across political aisles. And this week was no different to the general trend of aloof and disconnected elected representatives seeking to obfuscate and posture instead of committing to serving the people of this country.
The activities swirling around Zuma continue to play out with hints that any sound and rational action by the Constitutional Court will result in activities that threaten our rule of law. However, Zuma’s 21-page document simply does not account for how the country’s former president can account in fact or law for his current course of action. The belief by the former president that there is a concerted political conspiracy to undermine his legacy and to persecute him continues to be at the heart of how ill-treated Zuma feels, but unfortunately those sentiments are not supported by the facts outside the realm of the shadow state that the former president previously presided over.
The hubris which the former president has decided to adopt does not surprise South Africans, but rather many continue to hope that the African National Congress that protected this man would begin the hard work of unravelling this rot and beginning a journey of renewal and a renewed commitment to service and ethics.
Unfortunately, the factional battles and alliances within the governing party have continued to play out and in some respects hamstring important reform that is required within government, epitomised by the current step-aside debate around Elias Sekgobelo “Ace” Magashule, and those similarly directed to step aside by the ANC’s National Executive Committee.
Party politics is not unique to the ANC, but also extends across the spectrum and we have witnessed some of those manoeuvrings play out around Bonginkosi Success Madikizela, the provincial leader of the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape, and its MEC for Transport and Public Works. Madikizela is currently seized with a scandal over his qualifications (or rather lack thereof) that has seen an investigation by the DA and his suspension from the cabinet of Premier Alan Winde. If it was not for the tip-off and the work of Daily Maverick, this falsified CV recorded on the Western Cape Government’s website since at least 2009 would not have been unravelled. There is no doubt that falsifying your qualifications is a criminal offence under the NQF Amendment Act and raises a serious concern why verification does not automatically take place even in instances where such persons are not required to have such a qualification.
There must be consequences of improper conduct whether your party regalia is black, green and gold, or red or blue. There must be consequences so South Africans can begin to see the hard work of rebuilding trust — not just in public institutions, but also in these people who claim to represent the people. People who are happy to abuse their position of privilege and authority by demanding that their voices are heard over those that do not have the privilege of position and title. The standard by which we hold our elected representatives accountable must extend beyond criminal conduct but also to the important question of whether or not they are ethical, acting in service and appropriately committing their efforts to the citizenry.
Madikizela has previously had to confront a scandal over a cake at his birthday party although that scandal was not as damning as the swirling chaos around Nomvula Paula Mokonyane and her party funded by Bosasa that has been a featured item at the State Capture Commission. Madikizela and the DA are now confronted by this scandal, all while three candidates within the party are vying for the position of mayoral candidate for Cape Town, although the candidate interviews were postponed this week while the DA’s Federal Legal Commission was reviewing the candidate nomination regulations. The postponement, it appears, came after certain concerns were raised that some of the Cape Town councillors on the selection panel may have a conflict of interest in the proceedings that involve Madikizela, incumbent Mayor Dan Plato and parliamentarian Geordin Hill-Lewis.
Samson Gwede Mantashe, former ANC secretary-general and current party chair, has been at pains at the State Capture Commission to distinguish how he views the events of the past decade, in particular how the government and its representatives must abide by the collective leadership of the governing party and do everything to defend itself even when that might impugn the Republic. He noted that “if you allow a free vote on a motion of no confidence, we will deal with a crisis immediately. It will create tensions in the party”. The interest of our political machinery – across the political spectrum – is focused on protecting the party, defending its position, managing the crisis, and ensuring that its image is always protected, even if this is damaging to the republic.
The unfortunate truth is that the shenanigans of these elected representatives comes at a great cost to shaping and supporting governments that are in fact able to confront the most urgent challenges facing our communities and citizens.
It is not that South Africans have given up on their democracy but rather that the political machinery continues to restrict our ability to meaningfully build on the values of the Constitution, enabling a social democratic agenda of enablement and aspiration.
Now is not the time to wait for these individuals to hear our concerns, but rather we must begin to champion for leaders of our own choosing that are not confined by party-political machinery but motivated by service to community and country. DM