Mathews Phosa: The people have spoken – not with a whisper, but a roar

The people have spoken — not with a whisper, but a roar.

Stripped from all the spin, the results of the recent municipal elections simply mean that the ANC has moved from being a majority party to a minority party. That reality opens up a number of sombre scenarios for the ANC’s election in 2022, as well as the country’s general election in 2024.

The question that we must all ask is: How can this happen in a mere 27 years?

Firstly, the rejection by the electorate can be found in what is popularly called optics.

Although our leaders drive around in bullet-proof German cars and fly by plane between their different houses, the majority of our people travel by taxi or by foot and live in dilapidated housing or in the rough. The insensitivity of our government to the plight of the people will cost us dearly in future elections. There needs to be another calculated look at all the luxuries afforded to parliamentarians as well as the executives at the cost of the taxpayer.

Secondly, we were caught asleep at the wheel by the recent destructive pandemic.

When we woke up, we put the blame where it should not belong — in industries such as the tobacco and alcohol sectors and a number of other factors. All these had little to do with fighting the pandemic head on. Industries such as South Africa’s wine industry were bruised and battered by our management of the pandemic and those that survived it will take years to recover.

The third reason for the dismal results can be found in the massive corruption that we face in the public sector. Nowhere has it been as shockingly exposed than at the Zondo commission. Billions of rands have been wasted by thieves and leaders who do not understand the will and needs of the people who elected them. 

One of the issues, over and above the issue of corruption, is that we should again look at the size and the cost of the public sector wage bill. I know that this is not a popular topic but it is currently slowly swallowing our ability to deliver on our social programmes.

Another factor is that the leaders of major political parties were slow to realise that the electorate now understands the difference between promise and delivery. They cannot be fooled forever into the promise that tomorrow will be better than today. They have heard that once too often.

We were all slow in understanding the anger of the people surrounding their terrible circumstances as it pertains to jobs, quality of education, quality of healthcare, transport and lastly the quality of their lives in general. Over and above this, the opposition parties will now be extremely reluctant to enter into coalitions with the ANC as they have smelt blood and are now thinking about coalitions in 2024 that will exclude the current governing party, the ANC.

We cannot govern by selective morality. While some leaders are prosecuted before courts and targeted by some streams of the media, other leaders are left with their devious disguises of working with tenders and other devious opportunities. We should all be equal before the law.

Justice should prevail for all and not for some.

Another reason is racism. Racism is the go-to modularity for excuses for non-delivery and weak leadership and does not do the trick with the electorate anymore. While we are still answering some issues around race and other related issues, it has long passed its sell by date as an excuse for corruption, non-delivery and mediocre leadership.

What is it that we can conclude from the above?

As a point of departure, we should admit that the ANC is now slowly stumbling towards a slow death. It is also becoming a rural party and not a strong urban party anymore.

It is a tragedy that the ANC is increasingly despised by those who were willing to wait almost three decades for a better life for all.

The leadership should finally realise that they should govern by substance rather than by spin. Unless the ANC top leadership realises that it must rule by deeds and delivery, it will die a certain death as outlined above. There should be no excuses whatsoever for theft, fraud, bribery, nepotism nor secret deals between the private and public sector.

We should also immediately consider a total overhaul of local and provincial government so that the current bloated structures and duplicated systems are streamlined, and money freed up for cost effective service delivery.

I am one of those who believes that we can save the sinking ship, but then there should be a dramatic change in service delivery, a change in selective morality, a change in the understanding of the current optics and leaders who understand that they do not serve themselves but rather the people. 

If all the above emphasis against the ANC is not understood, nor changed, the ANC will suffer severely and will suffer an even bigger defeat at the hands of the electorate in 2024.

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Mathews Phosa
Mathews Phosa is a former premier of Mpumalanga and a member of the national executive committee of the ANC

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