Defend Truth

Opinionista

A maturity test for our democracy is busy unfolding

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Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

The ANC’s political ambitions have no doubt been dealt a blow, but it still holds the largest share of power and has the final say in which scenario to choose.

The recent national and provincial elections produced the largely unexpected rise of the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party. Despite being barely six months old, it secured just below 15% of the vote, albeit heavily concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal. 

One can be forgiven for being both surprised and dismayed by this outcome, given that MK’s leader – Jacob Zuma – was also the architect of South Africa’s highly damaging State Capture saga.

This is populist politics at its best.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dashboard

MK’s manifesto, which includes calls to scrap the Constitution and nationalise industries, resonated with more than just a handful of voters.

Around 2.3 million people voted for MK, which suggests either a lack of understanding of or disregard for the dire consequences for the country should the party’s policies ever be implemented.

It’s a prime example of personality-driven politics, with MK’s success largely attributable to one person. There is no doubt that without Zuma, this party would have been insignificant at the polls.

The nation now faces a critical juncture, with the ANC needing to choose between coalition options, the outcome of which will shape the country’s growth – or decline.

The low-road scenario

Of the two most likely scenarios that could unfold, the first could be regarded as the “low road” (taking a leaf from Clem Sunter’s scenario-planning terminology), whereby the ANC forms an alliance with the EFF and the Patriotic Alliance.

In this case, the ANC would effectively hand control of KZN to MK, and even though Zuma is legally unable to hold political office, he does retain considerable influence in the corridors of power.

Many agree that this scenario has the potential of triggering capital flight from KZN, at least.

This alliance would also involve extensive negotiations and horse-trading for positions within the national executive, and, let’s face it, neither the EFF nor the PA have a track record of good governance.

There is no doubt that some within the ANC structures might favour the EFF/PA option in order to secure their positions. However, the broader executive must surely understand the dangers and unsustainable outcomes this scenario poses for them and the country.

The possible inability of the ANC’s executive to muster sufficient internal support to reject this low-road option could pose a significant hurdle for the high-road option. 

The high-road option

The second scenario involves the formation of an ANC coalition with the DA and the IFP. This alliance would exclude the EFF and the PA from power at the national level as well as in every province, including KZN. 

In this arrangement, it might be strategic to appoint an IFP leader for KZN, while a power-sharing agreement of some sort would need to be structured between the DA and ANC in Gauteng.

Ego management 

At the national level, an ANC/DA/IFP coalition would require significant ego management and diplomatic leadership.

Success in this endeavour could signal a meaningful maturing of our democracy. It has significant potential to stimulate economic growth. 

However, failure to reach an accord could lead to instability reminiscent of Johannesburg’s recent leadership struggles, deterring much-needed capital and investment.

The next few days will be the true test of our democracy’s maturity, which now lies in our political leaders’ ability to set aside their egos and prioritise cooperative and collective governance that focuses on the public good – ahead of party interests. While this will be a considerable challenge given the highly competitive nature of the political environment, it is possible.

A major obstacle in the high-road scenario is most likely to be the need for the ANC to retire underperforming ministers who have failed to address inefficiencies, maladministration and corruption within their respective ministries. 

People such as Gwede Mantashe (Minerals and Energy), Blade Nzimande (Higher Education), Bheki Cele (Safety and Security), Angie Motshegka (Education), and Sindisiwe Chikunga (Transport) are notable examples.

The political upheaval following the election results raises questions about whether the ANC will now consider the retirement or replacement of these underperforming ministers. 

Mantashe, Nzimande and Cele in particular have either been implicated in dubious activities or run ministries fraught with administrative challenges. Their preparedness to step aside would no doubt enable the ANC to address these issues in a coalition arrangement that would add impetus to the high-road scenario. 

Somehow, judging by their past hubristic behaviour, this would appear to be a hurdle too high to clear, unless an agreement to keep their skeleton closets locked can be reached.

Addressing obstructive behaviour

Another challenge that looms large, particularly if the high-road scenario materialises, is dealing with obstructive behaviour from MK members in both the national and provincial legislatures. 

Given Zuma’s history, we can expect disruptive tactics aimed at making governance difficult. This calls for effective zero-tolerance strategies by robust and effective intelligence and crime-fighting structures, along with other oversight entities, to handle such behaviour and maintain legislative order.

The ANC’s political ambitions have no doubt been dealt a blow, but the party still holds the largest share of power and has the final say in which scenario to choose.

The nation’s future largely depends on the decisions it makes in the coming days, and whatever the outcome, active citizenry and robust civil society organisations have a crucial role to play. 

We must collectively demand that sanity prevails and that political leaders prioritise the interests of citizens when it comes to deciding the way forward. DM

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