Editorial: Desperately seeking an opposition

It is nearly 10 000 days since South Africa became a democratic country. 

We have known just one government in that time, under the leadership of the ANC. This is despite the party’s shift from a democratic institution to a tool of looting and self-enrichment. It is despite gross mismanagement of our natural resources. And it is despite its inability to discipline the corrupt in its own ranks. In any healthy democracy, the party would be punished at the ballot box. 

But, some metro losses aside, the ANC has not lost control over the levers of patronage. 

This week we watched as the ANC further contorted itself in an attempt to explain how its second-most powerful employee, Ace Magashule, would stay in his job despite his impending arrest. The ink has barely dried on the promise to have members charged by law enforcement agencies step aside. 

On the same day as the ANC tried to justify its failure, voters went out to pick representatives in wards across the country. Ramaphoria has lost its sparkle. John Steenhuisen and Helen Zille have been back in charge of the Democratic Alliance for a long enough time to have made a stamp. 

Yet voters dramatically rejected the DA. It lost to GOOD. It lost to the ANC. It even lost to the Freedom Front Plus, a party whose inroads into the DA vote precipitated this sprint to the nostalgia of the past. Its only success came in majority English-speaking communities. 

And why would anyone else vote for the DA?

As we report this week, despite pointing fingers at the corruption of others, it has people accused of corruption in its own ranks. In this particular case, we investigated a councillor who was allowed to stand for re-election despite findings of corruption against him. 

In rejecting the reality of racism in South Africa, and doubling down on farm murders — an issue for sure, but one blown out of proportion for political gain — the DA has also stepped away from representing the issues of a majority of voters. 

Right now, it seems as if the DA is content to shrink back into being a provincial party, comfortable in what it can control. That is, if voters next year don’t punish it even further. 

Which leaves us with an official opposition that is not a challenge to the ANC in a multiracial and multicultural South Africa, where our history continues to define the opportunities of so many people. 

That leaves the Inkatha Freedom Party, a provincial minority party, and the Economic Freedom Fighters, which raises important points but is also led by people who are deeply implicated in corruption. 

No wonder the ANC can do whatever it wants. 

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