Sun, 21 Apr 2019

Melanie Verwoerd's recent column ("My f*k, ANC!") is to be welcomed for its very realistic assessment and forthright chastising of the party's infested list of electoral candidates for the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

"How is it possible," Verwoerd rightfully asks, "that so many that have been implicated in corruption and state capture are not only on the list, but in the top 100? Is this really the best the governing party can come up with?"

But maybe the answer lies in the almost sycophantic belief that the columnist had consistently expressed in President Cyril Ramaphosa in the past. In one particular column, and in capital letters, Ramaphosa is hailed as "by far the best we have in terms of leadership".

The president's image has since come undone, and it appears Verwoerd has come to accept that, in the greater scheme of things, there is precious little there that leaves much room for optimism.

For example (among many others), there's the Bosasa scandal involving both Ramaphosa and his son that just won't go away; he ducks the press at public events on questions of national importance; he still carries, and will forever carry, the spectre of the Marikana massacre about his person; and, for the record, the president, representing the nation, has publicly consorted with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been pilloried over the medieval murder of Washington Post journalist and fellow Saudi, Jamal Khashoggi.

So it is correct that, in Verwoerd's amended view, Ramaphosa's standing has gone from "the best in terms of leadership" to debunking "the central message from the president... that there is a new sheriff in town who will not tolerate any corruption" because it is "starting to sound pretty hollow".

It's been asserted elsewhere that it would be misplaced to hold Ramaphosa aloft as the last remaining, only possible saviour of the nation. That cautionary has come to be vindicated. In the well-orchestrated confusion of a chaotic election campaign, the "thuma mina" call has been revealed to be nothing short of a ploy. While it may have been well-intentioned to begin with, it has now morphed, and used to hoodwink and exploit the goodwill of well-meaning citizens, who have been roped in to fight internal factional battles on the (ANC) president's behalf.

The ruling party's campaign therefore stands exposed for the self-serving exercise that it is - clearly exhibited in the composition of the aforementioned electoral list, as pointed out by an "exasperated" Verwoerd, who questions: "Why was this tolerated by Ramaphosa?" Indeed.

The mini-gallery of rogues and villains featured on the list has served the president's hapless believers more like a poke in the eye with a fork than an unequivocal statement of intent to fight corruption.

Notwithstanding the window-dressing, the prosecutorial momentum on this front has ominously stalled, with no real movement likely on high-profile party transgressors in the short-term - and highly unlikely before May 8 (which is apparently the expiry date for the ANC's self-imposed moratorium on any threatening matters of state and lawfare).

Yet, whether it's the current imminent election, or the next, the first prospects of a possible fall of the ANC's Roman Empire have already been floated in the media. The latest is the soul-baring pronouncement by one of its senior leaders, Dr Mathews Phosa, who warns frankly that "the time will come when the electorate will punish us".

It is this scenario - driven by tribal politics and the demands of the "black tax" extended family principle - that underpin the clash of sectarianism as cadres battle each other for their "turn to feed".

For at least nine years (ignoring the Bosasa years for the moment) the ruling party was systemically neutralised, unable and unwilling to root out rampant corruption and state capture, inadequately equipped to "self-correct" or motivated to do the right thing. It's inconceivable that a convincing moral turnaround can be mounted at this stage.

Whether or not it's on the cards, five more years of misrule are all the Zupta/Bosasa-marshalled "fight back" campaigners need to complete their consolidation of the so-called "national democratic revolution", and put finishing touches to the well-embedded architecture of a parallel shadow state.

A worrying trend emerging among both the populace and the commentariat is to slavishly accept predictions of a landslide victory for the ruling party as a fait accompli - which would beg the question: Why bother with elections at all, then.

But the fact is that while election surveys, opinion polls, forecasts and the like are useful indicators, they can also translate into defeatist self-fulfilling or self-serving prophecies. Or they can just plain get things wrong, as was the case with the US media and American pollsters who failed to register a victory for The Orange One, Donald Trump.

To lap up the prospect of an overwhelming ANC victory as an inevitability or an immutable foregone conclusion, and surrender to defeat, is premature. People change their minds all the time, based on a plethora of imponderables; or they reach personal tipping points when, for instance, more and more evidence of corruption and theft, betrayal, deliberate lies and obfuscation are revealed to them at commissions of inquiry, such as are currently underway.

An alternative space should therefore be allowed, or assertively created, so that the chips of coalition politics may be allowed to fall where they may. The terrorizing parties that have ethically disqualified themselves from any such initiatives by their own unapologetic hooliganism, present their own set of challenges.

But a month is a long time in politics; anything can happen between now and May 8, and there can be no loss of hope - or principle, for that matter - at this time.

- Yazeed Fakier is a former deputy news editor of the Cape Times (but not in its recent incarnation). He also served as communications manager of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Cape Town.

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