Bring the love back to our politics

We are back to watching the familiar spectacle of the ANC and its alliance partners at each other’s throats over this and that, not least a new succession battle.

We have just emerged from routine election victory for the ANC, and we are headed for another in 2014. Jacob Zuma injected some excitement this year but there was never a real contest.

What are we going to say after the elections in 2014? That the Democratic Alliance has done very well, having increased its share of the vote from the current 16% to 20%?

That, unfortunately, is the real prospect for our democracy if there is no radical reconfiguration of politics, especially among opposition parties.

Our politics would be much more interesting if the ANC, like Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, faced the threat of losing power.

As matters stand I suspect that the ANC can fumble and bungle as much as they like but they will not pay the price at the polls. That is because (to borrow an ANC phrase) the opposition parties are out of touch with the masses. The ANC can ban the Dalai Lama on the eve of elections to protect party interests and get away with it. The government can release a Schabir Shaik, without fear of consequences, to the exclusion of thousands more deserving of medical parole, and have nothing to worry about.

They expect some media outcry and rebuke from voices of conscience such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but on the whole they are unperturbed. The masses will not punish them for transgressions of that kind.

Our main opposition, the DA, makes sense principally to a minority that is concerned about the rule of law, and that fears a descent into a Zimbabwesque failed state.

Caught up in its own excitement the DA targets and exposes those whom it believes will take us down the failed African path — Zuma, Julius Malema, Fikile Mbalula and Angie Motshekga — while it admits a soft spot for those it sees as voices of reason in the ANC – Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan, Barbara Hogan et al.

They are entitled to their views, I suppose. But what message does the DA have for poor South Africans struggling to make ends meet? Those who worry about food, housing, health, unemployment and education? That it will continue to expose corruption?

I might have missed it, but I didn’t see a DA poster that read “Stop hunger! Stop poverty!” alongside the “Stop Zuma” posters that went up just ahead of the elections.

The DA may well score an impressive 4% increase in the next elections, but the ANC will not have to worry about losing power.

My submission is that unless the DA reconsiders its priorities and relaunches as a party that is not only fixated on saving minority South Africans from crime and degradation, it will be consigned to the status of a loud voice from the periphery.

It is a pity that Azapo and the Pan Africanist Congress, parties truly to the left of the ANC and more empathetic with poverty-stricken South Africans, have never recovered from their foolish boycott of the negotiation process in the early 1990s.

Cope could have fared far better, but to win 7% of the vote within six months of its formation indicates real potential for growth. The party that was born of anger at the Zuma brigade must now accept that Msholozi is now president for all South Africans and find a different motivation.

They need not abandon what gave them an identity: principles such as equality before the law, direct election of the president and constituency representation, but they need to get out of Illovo and go find out what really bothers South Africans on a daily basis.

Elections are indeed won in the hundreds of Joe Slovo and Chris Hani informal settlements across the country where South Africans still go to bed hungry in 2009.

Millions of South Africans remain loyal to the ANC, but that is accentuated by the fact that no one else has demonstrated that they care for them. And the rushed idea of bringing all the opposition parties that fared badly in the elections under one banner to “consolidate opposition to the ruling party” sounds to me like a panic reaction. Reaching out to the masses should not be too complicated.

The 2011 municipal elections aren’t that far off. Let’s bring back some love and sincerity to our politics.

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Rapule Tabane
Guest Author

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