/ 16 November 2023

No ceasefire, no vote

South African President Ramaphosa Host Special Olympics Team At Union Buildings
No laughing matter: Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi (left) wants his amaPanyaza not only dressed in green but also to carry weapons and to be licensed to kill. Photo: Frennie Shivambu/Getty Images


There are two days to go until the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) kicks off its biggest voter registration drive since 1994.

It’s a huge weekend for the IEC and the country. The electoral commission hopes to increase the current number of registered voters — 26 260 155 of us who are already on the voters’ roll.

The IEC hopes to add a million or so new names to the roll and take the number of those who will be able to make their mark in next year’s national and provincial elections beyond the two-thirds of eligible voters at which it presently stands.

They’re throwing everything into getting more voters on the roll, and have hired about 90 000 temporary staff for the two days of registration at about 23 000 stations around the country.

So are the parties, especially those in the opposition moonshot coalition, who are hoping to number the numbers this weekend so they can get to the magic 50% plus one they will need to unseat the ANC when we go to the polls next year.

Like the electoral commission — and the parties — my ancient identity book and myself are ready to go this weekend.

I’ve moved wards since 2019, and changes to electoral law mean no more voting at any old polling station in the coming election. So it’s time to hit the local and get my name on the voters’ roll.

I’m still far from deciding who I will vote for.

There are new parties being launched every week, but they are mainly discards from the existing parties wanting an MPs salary and another five years of living off the public purse.

The ANC lost me as a voter back in 2009 and it hasn’t exactly done a lot since to rebuild my confidence in the former liberation movement.

It’s one thing to talk about renewal, another to actually do it.

The moonshot mob have just disqualified themselves from my vote with their stance on the genocide taking place against the people of Palestine and their support for the Zionist occupation.

So has the Patriotic Alliance, not that Gayton Mackenzie’s whole “migrant out” thing never did sit all that well with my migrant self.

Fixing the potholes and keeping the streets clean is all good; efficiency is nice. But when you’re on the wrong side of history when thousands of innocent people are being slaughtered, none of that really counts.

No ceasefire, no vote.

The dust had hardly settled over the drama caused by KwaZulu-Natal’s trophy snatching shadow premier and ANC chairperson, Siboniso Duma, before his Gauteng counterpart, Panyaza Lesufi, decided it was his turn to be back in the headline for all the wrong reasons.

Lesufi has never been one to allow others to hog the limelight, or the cameras, and decided to declare war on his political senior Police Minister Bheki Cele for refusing to give his amaPanyaza guns — and police badges.

Not satisfied with a squadron of drones, wall-to-wall surveillance cameras and a cashless Gauteng, Lesufi wants his personal army in green to have automatic weapons and recognition as a police force, which it is not.

Gauteng’s first citizen put Cele on notice, telling a meeting of the South African National Civic Organisation — the ANC’s imaginary friend — that the police minister’s “days are numbered” for refusing to play ball.

Lesufi — ever the detail man — is peeved with Cele for refusing to hand over the 9mms, R5s, pump action shotguns and appointment certificates to his green bombers, whose legal status is in question.

Lesufi wants amaPanyaza to be all tooled up and licensed to make arrests — and presumably kill. But instead of having squared this away before he called in the cameras, he wants Cele to do it now, several months after the fact.

Cele has, understandably, refused, saying that police are police and amaPanyaza are amaPanyaza, and that the firepower is remaining in the South African Police Service’s armoury — at least until it gets stolen.

A strange approach from Gauteng’s finest — and a touch light on logic.

It’s a bit like launching a ship before you finish welding its hull — or a Heiniken tavern of the future days after announcing a halt in issuing liquor licences in the province’s townships to push back against alcohol abuse and other social ills.

Then again, reading the small print has never been the premier’s strong point. The focus has always been on the soundbite, rather than long-term sustainability and the consequences of the decision on the people whose lives its effects.

Gauteng, you are led.