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Unholy political alliances pose a real danger to our young democracy

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Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

The coalition alliances will not stand the test of time and will certainly not benefit citizens. Service delivery will be marred with infighting for posts and money and politics. This will spell disaster for us as citizens, of this I have no doubt.

The ANC must be voted out of power. This has been the mantra of almost all opposition parties during the recent local government elections. Media houses banded together and revelled in the idea of a governing party suffering massive losses due to low voter turnout, going as far as claiming that the ANC is now being reduced to a rural party given the losses in the metro areas.

This was the main focus of the media and opposition parties. Why? Forgetting that most citizens who did cast their votes in fact voted for the ANC, including in all metros, ignoring their respective constituencies and their bread-and-butter issues, opposition parties all pronounced early on that they would never enter coalitions with the ANC. Forget the fact that the ruling party is the choice of the majority of citizens nationally. It seems they wanted to cast a negative aspersion on the ANC as if the majority of voters are stupid and ill-informed of their clear choice of who they prefer to govern them.

I’m not saying you must support the ANC because of this reality, but statements from Herman Mashaba that the ANC is racist and corrupt makes a mockery of citizens and their preferred choices. With Julius Malema casting doubt on the leadership of the current president of the ANC and the country, it suggests that something is wrong with these voters for voting for the very same president.

So, governed by this principle of getting rid of the ANC from the seat of power, these opposition parties enter into unholy coalitions. This will spell disaster for us as citizens, of this I have no doubt.

We all know that the EFF stands for nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, the taking of private property through expropriation of land without compensation — it actively promotes race-based politics, which is divisive.

The DA, on the other hand, stands for an open-opportunity society for all. It supports a meritocratic society where everyone is promoted based on merit, hence it actively fights against the policies of black economic empowerment, cadre deployment of blacks by the ANC and so much more.

The less said about what ActionSA stands for, the better. These are such divergent principles and policies and yet they band together against the ANC — why? Ideologically and on principle they surely cannot work together and won’t serve the interests of the people.

Julius Malema, Herman Mashaba and Helen Zille: through these unholy coalitions you surely demonstrate that it’s not about the people, the electorate and their needs and wishes, but about ousting the governing party from power. 

The danger comes when ANC members fear to speak truth to power, when they are surrounded by flatterers. This is not the time for flattery, but significant introspection. Harsh criticism is what is needed to truly reflect on what just went down after this local government election, and why the people have abandoned you.

Now, many will argue that this is what democracy and in particular multiparty democracy is all about. But I ask, is this really the objective of democracy — to vote the governing party out of power at all costs? Or is it supposed to be about the people and governing them, providing services to them and making a better life for them? I’m confused.

This behaviour of only wanting the ANC out of power is the antithesis of “the people shall govern”, and everything to do with subversion. It seems from where I’m sitting, you don’t care about the electorate that voted for you; instead you are preoccupied with power.

We are certainly in for the high jump. One only has to objectively look at what such coalitions accomplished in PE, Tshwane and Johannesburg after the 2016 elections. It was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. But no one is reflecting on this epoch.

The reason Mashaba was so desperate in wanting to be mayor of Johannesburg — and thank goodness he is not — is because deep down he knows that he failed at the job previously. He so desperately wanted to make a comeback to somehow show us that he can actually govern. He learnt a hard lesson that just because you are good at running a hair product company does not qualify you to run the most sophisticated and biggest-budget city on the African continent.

Last time as mayor, he spent the first two years wasting time and resources hunting for corruption ghosts. He was so obsessed with proving the ANC to be a corrupt party that he appointed expert investigators at exorbitant salaries to find what? Nothing. Not one successful prosecution after all that wastage.

Second, his unprincipled EFF partners extorted millions from him every time he needed them to vote with him to ensure that decisions went through at council level. The EFF knew that he was an inexperienced politician and it took him for a ride throughout his tenure. And boy, did Mashaba pay to a point where the HQ of the DA called him and said, what the hell is going on?

Patronage politics is exactly what they did not want to promote, and when his egotistical attitude got the better of him, the party had to separate from him. No wonder he so desperately wants to get back in that seat to prove… I don’t know what, exactly.

As for Julius, commander-in-chief, we see right through your supposed strategy. We know that showing up the president is part of your Nkandla tea party strategy for the RET. It is common cause that the EFF is stagnating in terms of support nationally, even though there was a marginal increase of support in KZN alone.

And when it is clear that you have run out of road and no longer appeal to the Fees Must Fall types and young black intelligentsia because they now see right through you and your so-called command council, you are forced to think of political survival and self-preservation. So, throw your lot in with the RET forces in the ANC and, who knows, perhaps later jump ship to your actual political home, the ANC.

As for the DA’s John Steenhuisen, who doesn’t know what to do with the newfound unholy coalitions, best you take your cue from Madam Zille, who knows very well that these coalitions will not last for the next three months. They are going to implode in the most spectacular way imaginable, resulting in by-elections in most cases.

The DA is conveniently an ostrich with its head in the sand, not wanting to take responsibility for what transpired in those metros when it was in charge. The patronage politics that crept in; how the only way to keep its preferred coalition partner onside was to bribe it at every turn. I do hope this will not be the case in future.

Let us acknowledge that Athol Trollip messed up, Mashaba messed up and Solly Msimanga messed up. These facts are irrefutable. Why do we desperately cling to the idea that this time around these unholy coalitions will work for us?

I say again, these unholy coalitions will not stand the test of time and will certainly not benefit citizens. 

Service delivery will be marred with infighting for posts and money and politics. The other matter of great concern to me is this misguided attitude of identity politics. Identity politics is a dangerous thing and we are so racist that our outlook suggests identity politics is multi-party democracy. It is not. What is a Muslim policy, what is a coloured policy, what is an Afrikaner policy? You cannot organise around race or class; hence you have a policy that is “not ANC”!

As for the ANC, the people have spoken with their feet — they are gatvol with your shenanigans, malfeasance and corrupt practices. It was Shakespeare who reminds us, “Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows? To plainness honour’s bound when majesty falls to folly.”

The danger comes when ANC members fear to speak truth to power, when they are surrounded by flatterers. This is not the time for flattery, but significant introspection. Harsh criticism is what is needed to truly reflect on what just went down after this local government election, and why the people have abandoned you.

When power to flattery bows and majesty falls to folly. You have fallen to folly, mighty ANC. DM

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  • Some good points raised in the article and time will tell what the outcome of the electoral upheaval we have experienced. There are some questionable points too. After 22 years of running all metros except Cape Town, the citizens of these metros started to vote against the ANC in 2016. Talking about the mismanagement, corruption, patronage and deterioration of service delivery over those 22 years in comparison to the 5 years of unstable coalitions from 2016 is a bit of stretch. We all know what happened during those 2 time periods. The main point though is that ANC hegemony and the belief in the right to govern has been toppled. How that happens is less relevant, so long as it was through the vote. Democracy won and yes, it is a mess and will be for a while. Where the ANC delivers, great. Where the ANC doesn’t deliver, it is time to move on. The same goes for the DA, EFF and all other parties.

    • Unspeakable ANC poses a real danger to our young democracy. Perhaps ANC hegemony was a phase we had to go through, and unholy political alliances is a phase we have to go through.

  • The various players have different reasons for wanting the ANC out but whatever the reasons we are better off with them out rather than in.

  • I don’t have the time to read this apologiser’s sour grapes rant about the party – his party – that destroyed the country through corruption and cronyism and it’s inability to govern. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as my ouma used to say. Anybody still rooting for that crooked bunch are either ignorant or complicit.

  • All van Heerden does is highlighting the short comings of the opposition parties to divert attention from corruption and incompetence of the ANC. This country is a powder keg thanks to a party that is incapable to even organise a p…u… in a brewery.

  • Oscar, your maths seems a bit strange. As the ANC won less than 50% of the national vote (and even less in most metros), how can you say that most citizens who did cast their vote voted for the ANC? I think you’re saying they won more than other individual parties in many municipalities but they did not get most votes cast. In addition, the only way the ANC might seriously introspect is if they are voted out of power. I agree with many of your other points but sadly you still seem to believe the ANC is able to “self-correct” on its own.

    • Carol, I agree that it would indeed be great if the ANC can be voted out of power, but as Stephen Grootes also wrote this morning, it is most unlikely, at least for now. Certainly not with the dummy coalitions we have now in many metro’s. Reality is that the DA, EFF and ActionSA will not be good bed-fellows. Besides, these 3 parties combined only got 34% of the vote, against the ANC’s 46%. I also predict that at some stage Malema will jump ship.

      • Good points Coen. I guess I live in naïve hope that the ANC will suffer the consequences of their corruption, incompetence and general horrendous rule (of the past 13 years or so) in the not too distant future….

  • Seldom (in fact never) do I read any article by Oscar that is not thought provoking. Despite some criticism from some “insiders” for this particular article, I found this it most interesting, and point-driven accurate. In contrast to others, I also do not sense the Oscar in any way possible favoured the ANC in his article. To the contrary. Thus think that those critics are a bit selective in what paragraphs they read (and obviously then which party they support).
    Thank you sir, can’t wait for your next one. As like all the others, I have had much to ponder about after reading this one!

    • We had a specific name for kids at school who hung on every word their teachers spewed and never questioned what they were told.
      Oscar never lets the facts get in the way of a good rant. How you find this article “thought provoking” is beyond me.
      It’s just another rant about how the opposition will fail to oust the ANC despite that being their only goal, and how the ANC must speak “truth to power” and not be swayed by “flatterers” in the hope that with the right dollop of introspection the ANC will suddenly become a power fit to govern. Just another OVH rant I’m afraid.

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