Our hard-earned democracy is on the brink of collapse. For not a moment longer should we be willing to forgive, forget nor make excuses for the way our democratic gains, secured and fought for so valiantly, have been shamefully squandered by our political leaders.
Come 2024, let us not have the wool pulled over our eyes yet again. Come 2024, let us take back our power, the political power we bestowed upon them, the power they so abused to advance their own interests while failing to secure ours. Let us recognise the invaluable opportunity we have to say, once again, as we did in 1994, “Enough is enough. It is time for change”.
The chosen paths of action and policy positions taken by the three major political parties over the past 30 years have not strengthened our democracy but collectively destroyed it. Their collective track records prove that they have not restored the dignity nor improved the quality of life for poor people, but instead have collectively mismanaged, misgoverned, and misappropriated the resources of state.
The ANC was handed the reins of power in 1994 in order to manage the transition from the apartheid socioeconomic-political system. Guided by our new Constitution, they were meant to usher in a system that was to be inclusive, just and caring and bring about real change. While they successfully repealed the racist laws of apartheid and transformed the political system, they failed to bring about social and economic transformation, especially for those who needed it most.
What is the lived reality of the majority of South Africans today who live in a dysfunctional state? They experience first-hand the horrendous impact of a failing public health system unable to cure the sick nor alleviate the burden of disease carried by the poor among us.
They live with a broken education system that fails to educate their children or provide them with better futures. This government, which we have kept in power for the last 30 years, fails to deliver to us with expected daily regularity, even such basic services like water and electricity. Nor is there any evidence of a clear plan to remedy the collapsing national infrastructure of our water or energy supply.
Homelessness and unemployment are what large sections of the population experience every day. Add to that the daily grind and the consequent deterioration of mental and physical health when people cannot afford to put bread on the table or put a roof over the heads of their families.
Instead of working wisely with the financial resources of the state, our politicians plunder and steal from the state purse. The fiscal and economic policies pursued by the ANC government since 1994 have expanded and protected the interests of rich people, yet failed to raise poor people from poverty or improve the quality of their daily lives in any consistent manner. Come 2024, why should we continue to vote this government into power?
Denial and deflection
Before now, we may have been persuaded by false reasoning or convinced by counterarguments that the ANC leadership is not really to blame for the harm and suffering their policies and actions have caused. They can no longer continue to blame the sins of apartheid or Covid-19, or on a few rotten apples in the ruling party. The leadership of the ANC has had 30 years to prove they are capable of governing, and they have failed us dismally. Come 2024, let us not give them another five years to continue this betrayal.
We know from past experience exactly what is going to happen before this next election. Political parties of all persuasions will try to convince us to trust them again and give them our vote. They will ask again to be trusted with the state purse. They will promise that they will call to account any dishonest politician or state official who dares to deal dishonestly with state resources. Come 2024, let us not be seduced by false and empty promises of real change that never comes.
Come 2024, let us remember the collective track records of all the major parties, especially the ANC. While the Democratic Alliance may have a cleaner track record than most, it has had its share of corrupt members who too have stolen and pilfered. As for the members of the Economic Freedom Front, their track record speaks for itself. There are countless recorded cases of the EFF leadership evading the payment of personal taxes, reaping personal benefits from tenderpreneurship, and manipulating access to state resources.
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Come 2024, let us not be duped again by flowery manifestos, for while these political parties may want to make us believe they are different, they are the same in one respect. Before each election, all three have promised in one form or another that their manifestos, their programmes of actions, will secure for us four basic things so dearly desired by every self-respecting and honest South African: economic equality, social justice, peace and prosperity for all.
The ANC, the DA and the EFF are the same in that all three have failed dismally and have reneged on delivering on the social compact of 1994. Why should we vote for politicians and political parties who have failed, for the last 30 years, to honour the social justice principles of our new Constitution and failed to create peace, security, and stability for ALL in our country? Why?
The DA has never had real empathy nor even understood the transformative spirit of the 1994 social compact. The DA puts its energy into fighting corruption in other parties, engaging in legal action when it believes that certain constitutional rights have been violated or when certain human rights have been transgressed.
But in truth, the DA’s track record shows that its priority has always been the protection of the socio-political interests of a small prosperous elite. Behind its deceptively progressive sounding, neo-liberal slogan of Equal Opportunity for All lies the fundamental idea that after 1994 the repealing of the unjust racist laws and redesigning of the political system simultaneously served to level out the economic playing fields for all South Africans.
Racial equality, established after 1994, according to the DA, meant that equal access to economic opportunities was now within equitable reach of all South Africans. Never mind the economic head start of asset accumulation and economic power built up over decades by the white minority during the apartheid era, nor the accumulated inter-generational effects of disadvantage such as inferior education provision and poverty experienced by black families prior to 1994.
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Even Musi Maimane or Lindiwe Mazibuko could not get the DA to understand with empathy, or convince them to the contrary, how “equal opportunity for all” is not possible in a society that has been economically unequal for decades. The DA has never prioritised social and economic transformation since its life view is grounded in the belief that once racial equality was achieved, social and economic transformation was accessible and in reach of every individual. The onus was on the individual to make and be that economic change.
The DA should take heed of the words of the 32nd American President, Franklin Roosevelt, who said “we have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics”.
Under the DA leadership, minority privilege, (no matter for white or black) and gross inequality will continue. Why should we vote for the DA, a party which could not even begin to comprehend why programmes to address the righting of past economic wrongs should even be necessary, post 1994? Why?
Hypocritical paper tigers
The supposedly socialist-inclined EFF is the new kid on the political block. In terms of its political theorising and sloganeering it positions itself to the far left of the political spectrum. It makes radical demands for social, and economic change, confronts white economic privilege head on and says it strives to place the interests of the black majority at the centre of its political programme. They have reignited demands for restitution, land redistribution, nationalisation, economic access for all, for people-friendly state interventions and for more aggressive social welfare programmes.
But the EFF does not provide content-driven strategies or unifying solutions for fundamental social and economic change. Their ongoing disruptions to parliamentary procedure, though appreciated in the past, do not inspire confidence. Instead, they squander the opportunity afforded them to provide clear political direction and leadership on the House floor. Their militant theatrics isolate many communities, and their lack of a clear, cooperative purpose fails to bring much-needed balance to an otherwise rightward-leaning Parliament.
However, the biggest red flag for prospective voters in 2024 who may be thinking of voting for the EFF should be how glibly and unashamedly they can make opportunistic political alliances with political bedfellows, even those who hold polar-opposite political life views to theirs.
If these unholy alliances have meant that the EFF were able to hold onto political power, they have ditched their political principles, forgotten their lofty manifesto promises made to their constituencies and discarded their supposedly “socialist ideals” in order to secure alliances with the highest political bidder.
They have said they would be prepared to get into bed with the politically and diametrically opposed DA. And they will jump into bed with the ANC, if needs be, even though their rise to power was based on their virulent rejection of everything the ANC and DA represent.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Nonsense and insensibility – an ANC and EFF alignment will be a rocky road
Why should we vote for a party like the EFF, which is so dishonourable and untrustworthy? Why should we vote for the EFF who will happily discard the political principles which earned them your votes, and then use your votes as currency to secure for themselves extended access to political power, access to the state purse and resources for another term. Why?
Coalition government future
All political parties are feeling insecure about the outcome of the 2024 elections. For the first time since 1994, the ANC feels unsure of its chances of securing an outright majority. The DA’s biggest fear is that were the ANC to lose the majority vote but still manage to garner the larger percentage of our vote, they will form an alliance government with the EFF. Were this to occur, we would be governed by two devils instead of one and would be no closer to realising the social compact of 1994 which we so desire.
In anticipation of possibly being wiped out as the majority opposition party by this possible EFF and ANC alliance, the DA has gone ahead to launch the Multi-Party Charter. According to their programme of action, the DA and seven other smaller parties will contest the 2024 elections as independent parties, but after the election, they will combine their votes as a bloc to challenge a potentially weakened ANC, aligned with the EFF.
This is the political horse-trading that is already taking place. These political parties have a Plan A, which is to convince us voters to vote them into power on the basis of exaggerated manifestos and empty promises. If they cannot convince us to give them absolute power, they all have a Plan B. They will ditch their exaggerated manifestos and break their election promises to form alliances with whoever provides the most favourable access to continued power.
Whichever way we turn, alliance politics in one form or another is in our future. We can expect that such government formations, built on no clear common commitment or honest principles and that are held together simply by the selfish pursuit of power, will be unstable, inefficient, and ineffective.
Vote for smaller parties
It seems that whichever way we turn we are screwed. As an electorate, we do not seem to have any clear and simple options. However, being the eternal optimist that I am, I refuse to give in and give up on our struggle for true freedom and a better life for all. We have our lived experience as guides to our reasoning. We have track records to remember as we consider our vote. These are the simple steps that I will take when exercising my vote, in seven months’ time:
I will definitely vote so that I deny the ANC an outright majority. I will vote to weaken the ANC so much that the number of votes they are able to win is way less than it has ever been before. I will vote in this way to weaken the hold the ANC has on state power, to stop their betrayal, cease their access to state resources and to stop them from destroying our democracy any further.
But I will not shift a previous vote that may have gone to the ANC to a vote for the EFF. Because we know from experience that the ANC and the EFF will join forces and form an alliance to outfox us and continue their hold on state power. The quality of our lives will not change if these two parties are in power. They will continue to pillage and steal and squander our hard-earned gains.
I will not use my precious vote to vote for the DA because they do not fight for economic transformation for all South Africans. If they believe that the fight for economic transformation is not their responsibility but mine as a “free” individual, they do not deserve my vote. To vote for the DA is to use my vote so that they may continue to prioritise, protect and secure minority privilege.
I will use my vote to weaken the hold that all three of the present major political parties have on state power. I will vote in such a way that they each receive far fewer votes than they have ever received before. This will be my way of saying to them that I no longer trust them, that I no longer believe in their fake manifestos, empty promises and lies.
I will send a clear message to them that rejects their collective past performances and abysmal track records of mismanagement, poor governance, and corruption. I will withhold my vote to them as a vote of no confidence in their ability to truly deliver economic and social justice for all.
Instead, I would consider voting for an independent candidate who may be standing for election. If any of these have demonstrated a true commitment to fighting for all citizens, or have a track record of selfless service, I would consider giving them my vote.
If any of them are selfless in their service and will continue to be honest and withstand temptations to act in corrupt ways once appointed, I would give them my vote. If there was an independent candidate with a strong moral character and strong progressive values who would put the interests of poor people at the centre of their political programme, I will give them my vote.
In the absence of an independent candidate, I may give my vote to one of the smaller parties whose leadership I may trust or have come to respect. The more diverse voices we have in our democracy, the better and more resilient it is.
If it means lessening the grip on absolute power for one, two or three parties, I will support the smaller parties with whom I may share some common political values.
Finally, I will view this election of 2024 as a turning point for ushering in change to parliamentary politics. Change is not easy and does not come in a shot. 2024 must be the year we break the hegemonic grip the ANC has had on our lives, the year we send a clear message to the DA and the EFF that we longer believe nor trust them with our future.
2024 must be the year that we accept that alliance governance is what we will have to settle on for the next five years. We will deal with the instability and inertia that this will bring, but the horse-trading and political pimping that is likely to occur should only serve to further expose the rotten nature of our present political leaders.
As we push forward, after 2024, we must turn our attention to advocating for true electoral reform. We must keep our eyes on the Electoral Amendment Act just signed into law, recognise it for the scam that it is and keep the pressure on to ensure wider participation and greater representation in our electoral system.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I believe we must immediately turn our attention to developing an emerging, new generation of political leaders who are among us. Remember how we averted a bloody revolution and transitioned peacefully to our new democracy precisely because of the strength of our liberation movements, our diverse and broad-based grassroots organisations, and respected local, provincial and national political leaders?
Let us begin to build back a new political leadership, better and stronger.
We must see the 2024 elections as a springboard from which to re-launch this new chapter of our Struggle, our fight for national unity in action, to compel meaningful change from below and create the favourable conditions for a truly just, free and prosperous South Africa for all. DM