/ 23 February 2024

ANC dodges deployment bullet

Serious Cyril Ramaphosa
Seriously: President Cyril Ramaphosa announced 29 May as the date on which we will cast our vote. Photo: Dwayne Senior/Getty Images


A lot has happened since the last time we met — a fair part of it over the past three days.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) leader has finally received the ANC’s deployment committee records; President Cyril Ramaphosa has named 29 May as election day; the budget has been passed and Judge John Hlophe has been given his don’t come Monday by the members of our parliament.

A lot also hasn’t happened — particularly when it comes to keeping the lights on, creating jobs and delivering running water.

No jobs, no water, no electricity — it was back to stage four within hours of parliament dropping the hammer on Hlope on Wednesday evening — but at least we have an election date.

The votes were hardly counted in the ballot to impeach the former Western Cape judge president and the result announced before Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa pulled the plug on our brief vacation from rolling blackouts.

Neither load-shedding nor a last-minute application for an interdict to stop the  parliamentary vote from going ahead were going to save Hlophe from the dubious honour of being the first member of our judiciary to be impeached.

The 305-to-27 result must still have hurt though: a timely reminder to Hlophe and the rest of us of the shift in the balance of power in the governing party — and of the fact that in politics, no friendships are permanent.

Fikile Mbalula’s release of the ANC’s deployment records must have hurt too.

Not Mbalula though.

It’s not just the fact that Mbalula’s name is nowhere in the bundle of screenshots, redacted deployment committee minutes, emails and CVs that were handed over to the DA on Monday night by the governing party — beyond the form he signed when he became secretary general.

Mbalula’s fancy footwork also means that any plan the DA had to steal the ANC’s thunder on Friday by releasing the bundle ahead of the ruling party’s manifesto launch on Saturday went out the window the minute Fikile hit send.

South Africans have a notoriously short attention span.

Most of those who do read the documents aren’t likely to get beyond page 25 of the 1 117 pages of poorly copied material — I’m getting paid to and I battled.

Those who do have the patience to wade their way through them will realise they’re only telling us what we already know — and will have forgotten about it by the time Ramaphosa takes the stage at the weekend.

The deployment committee records may give the DA ammunition for legal action further down the road — but it won’t be before Saturday, or election day — which is what really matters at this point in time.

The announcement of 29 May as the date for the national and provincial elections won’t power a fridge, a laptop or even a cellphone, but it does put an end to the speculation — and moaning — over when the president would proclaim voting day.

The 22 May suggested by Deputy President Paul Mashatile over the weekend during the build-up activities ahead of the ANC’s manifesto launch in Durban this Saturday would have been better — once it’s done it’s done — but 29 May will do.

Parties have all been in full campaign mode since last year — we were already several manifestos in by the time Ramaphosa announced the election date on Tuesday night — so any further delay would have taken us into the realm of the farcical.

Ramaphosa couldn’t really deliver his party’s manifesto on Saturday without having a date on which to tell the comrades to vote for the ANC — or could he?

Naming a date for the election also means that the deluge of new parties that have been launched almost daily in the build-up to the biggest election since 1994 will soon come to an end.

I still don’t know who to vote for, having given up on the existing parties two elections ago.

The new options aren’t a lot better.

It’s hard to take seriously the horde of political wannabees, failed celebrities, big party discards, people’s offspring and other one-election wonders who have been queuing up to pay their registration fee to the Electoral Commission of South Africa.

We’re already knee-deep in self-proclaimed gap-fixers and would-be game-changers, newly invented congresses, conventions and movements, a plethora of new entrants more likely to waste votes than make use of them.

Being spoiled for choice is one thing, but it feels like the longer the ballot paper gets, the lower the likelihood of any of the heads on it being able to deliver on what they are promising.