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Khaya Dlanga: I criticise the ANC, but I'll vote for it

Khaya Dlanga

The ANC didn't make Khaya Dlanga who he is today, but he is aware of what his life could have been had it not been for the ruling party.

Thousands of supporters attended the ANC's launch of its election manifesto in Nelspruit on January 11. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

I am not unaware of the hypocrisy of my decision. How does one reward what one criticises? I know a lot of people will have a problem with what I have said – be it people who are for the opposition or the ANC.

I criticise the ruling party because it is not in a pretty state right now. There have been times when the party has defended the unthinkable. It allowed itself to be distracted by petty issues such as the Spear painting saga. The fiasco around that painting was ridiculous to say the least. 

But here are some of the reasons why I will vote for the ANC.

Between 1994 and 2007, South Africa's gross domestic product averaged 3.6%, and inflation was brought down to 6.3%. South Africa grew from an economy of $80-billion to $400-billion since 1994. Under the ANC, the country also experienced the greatest number of consecutive quarters of growth in its history. 

I have experienced the transformation in my own life from living in a village to attending a school previously reserved for white people only; and working in jobs and offices that prior to 1994 did not allow for people of colour.

I have witnessed the village I grew up in progress from no basic services to having running water and electricity.

I have seen the road leading up to my village and the township I grew up in tarred.

I know people who had no income and have been able to care for their children using grant money.

I have watched clinics and schools being rebuilt. 

I have seen the country pull off the world's largest sporting event, the 2010 Fifa World Cup, when many people believed we would not succeed. Fifa verified it as the best ever.

So I cannot honestly say the ANC has not done anything in my life. I know what my life could have been without it and I know what the ANC has enabled my life to become. But I am not going to say that it made me what I am. It didn't. 

Things such as affirmative action, ensuring that corporate South Africa employed black people – but it was not the ANC that gave me any of my jobs. I still had to work hard. The ANC didn't do my job, did not hire me, and did not promote me. But it made tools available and created opportunities for me. 

One of the big issues the ANC faces is that many people are unhappy with the leader of the party and not necessarily the party itself.

I have had to separate the party from the person who leads it.

There is a perception that the ANC looks out for the interests of individuals first, namely president Jacob Zuma, rather than those of the country. This has to change. Judging by what has happened in the recent past, the question potential ANC voters are asking is: can the ANC be trusted to put the country first? 

The ANC is capable of changing as history has demonstrated. Nelson Mandela and his generation orchestrated the removal of then ANC president, Alfred Bitini Xuma, for not helping the movement with the urgency needed at the time. Xuma's apologetic stance would have cost the ANC support as the sentiment on the ground was that it was time for more militant tactics in the fight against apartheid. The leadership of the day responded to the mood.  

One of my favourite tv series is The West Wing. In the show, Senator Arnold Vinick is running for president, and is played by Alan Alda. At one point, while he polishes his shoes, he is listening to a much younger man who works at the White House. The young man is irritated by the senator's apparent lack of trust for thinking the White House has a secret agenda.

The senator says to the young man: "The founding fathers didn't base a government on trust. They could have designed a government based on trust and our ability to govern fairly but they knew that power corrupts. So they invented checks and balances. It was genius. The founding fathers did not want me to trust you, they did not want you to trust me."

I will vote for the ANC but I don't trust it. I don't' trust it to always make the right calls as it is led by mere men. Just like I wouldn't trust the Democratic Alliance or the Economic Freedom Fighters. We must and have to distrust our leaders for our own sake, which is why we have institutions to with checks and balances. And whenever these bodies – such as the press, judiciary and public protector – are threatened, we have to speak out because they are there to ensure that our democracy remains in tact.

The institutions are a safeguard against our own foolishness, therefore they should never fall. I trust them because they are also institutions that were set up by the ANC to guard the country from the ANC. 

We have to face the reality that Zuma may prove to be a liability for the party, as indicated by an Ipsos survey, which anticipates a 10% drop in the ANC's support at this year's election. I think it is because people are unsure about the candidate.

The ANC needs to remind people about the things it has done over the last 20 years. It also has to start showcasing the leaders of the near future. By doing this, the relentless efforts of the opposition in making this election about Zuma will be erased.

The election should be about the kind of people who will be at the helm of the ANC in the years to come. People have a trust deficit when it comes to Zuma. Showcase the people the electorate trust and make sure they are the people who will run the country in the future. 

The work the ANC has done over the last 20 years cannot be denied. Many thought that once it took over, the country would crumble. It didn't. The party made a mistake by standing behind former president Thabo Mbeki during his greatest error – the manner with which he dealt with the Aids crisis – but it was also under his tenure that the country experienced its longest era of economic growth. The party has made some mistakes but it has got many things right, as proven by the visible and tangible change in many people's lives. 

Even though the ANC is going to win this election very comfortably, although perhaps not as comfortably as it would have hoped, the party will enter this election as an underdog of sorts for the first time in history.

But I have looked at the ANC's history and have full confidence in its future.

As the saying goes: it is darkest just before dawn. The ANC is going through a dark time, but I sense a great dawn.


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