THE results of the local government election suggest that little has changed. The ANC lost a percentage point or two compared with it’s 2009 national election result and it held onto all the major metros it already controlled.
The DA gained, but more at the expense of other opposition parties, taking only marginal votes from the ANC.
But there are many more strands to this election than this superficial reading.
The ANC retained its influence by taking some dramatic steps to improve its image among voters. President Jacob Zuma went on record last weekend saying that he now “understood” why there had been such wide protests over service delivery.
This was a major acknowledgement following as it did on years of denial that was a serious delivery problem.
Zuma also hinted strongly that Sicelo Shiceka, the ineffectual minister charged with local government would go and the ANC dumped mayors who had failed, such as Johannesburg’s Amos Masondo, in favour of new faces.
All of these concessions resulted from the reality that the opposition DA has managed to re-imagine itself as a party which first and foremost cares about the delivery of services.
It was no longer a hollow claim made for propaganda purposes. The DA was able to point to a track record of success in Cape Town. It’s message lost some of its power as it dallied over the enclosure of toilets in Makaza, granting the ANC a desperately needed lifeline.
There can be no question that there will be an urgency in both ANC and DA-led councils to demonstrate probity and measurable delivery. The hot breathe of the opposition on your neck is, ultimately, the surest inspiration to properly represent the people.
The eradication of the smaller parties, including the IFP, Cope and the ACDP, by the DA, places South Africa on the path to a two-party electoral system. This will further focus electoral politics and bring more pressure on parties to meet their fulfil promises or face censure from voters.
The danger which now lurks is that parties might retreat into racial categories, with the DA representing minorities and the ANC representing the black majority. This would be tragic proof of the longevity of the apartheid paradigm.
It would ossify politics, limiting the opposition’s growth and it could push the ruling party increasingly into racial politics to bring out its base.
The rise of populist politicians who are not afraid to play the race card has already begun.
But the politics of delivery might yet prove more powerful than that of racial allegiance. Next time around, will failure be tolerated?
*This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
THE disintegration of the ruling ANC’s alliance with Cosatu and, to a lesser extent, the SACP, continues to gather momentum. Is it good or bad for the country?
The argument can be made that the end of the alliance would lead to a breakdown in social cohesion as the lid is opened on a
viscous vicious contest between left and right.
The past two weeks might well have given South Africans a bitter foretaste of a future of protracted labour action which becomes dangerously politicised. It is not hard to picture the full might of organised labour unleashed on the state without the restraint of the alliance.
But would it have to end badly?
There is the possibility that the release of these tensions, which have been kept behind closed doors with diminishing effectiveness, into the public domain might be just the tonic for our moribund political institutions.
An open contest at the polls between a left-leaning labour movement and a realigned center would offer South Africans the political choice that they are presently denied by the continuation of the Alliance.
The political competition that would result would force parties to sharpen their policies and throw out unelectable leaders. They would have to measure every word against its consequences at the ballot box.
This would have a sobering effect on the national political debate which has deteriorated into an amusing but ultimately pointless exercise in chauvinist name-calling.
The nation got a glimpse of how political competition would sober up politics during the last election when Cope launched an assault on the ANC’s core constituency for the first time. Politicians were measured and the name-calling was kept to a minimum lest it offend potential voters. What was missing was any serious difference in policy between the ANC and Cope, which mimicked the ruling party’s “broad church” approach.
It would be different if a labour party were to stand against the ANC. In such a scenario there would be a clear distinction between the social-democratic left and the centrist nationalists. Voters would be making a choice that could result in a real difference to the way in which the country would be governed.
The ANC would have to think twice about allowing leaders to use public platforms to advocate nationalisation and land seizure without compensation as Youth League President Julius Malema did this week.
Helen Zille’s DA, which is going from strength to strength in the Western Cape, has showed how voters will choose one party over another based on their governance records if there is the real prospect of a change in government.
The DA would in all likelihood become a third “liberal” party in the national contest for power were the alliance to give way to open competition for power.
All of this remains academic as the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP continue to proclaim their loyalty to the alliance while privately plotting to diminish each other’s grasp on state power.
What is changing is the public perception of the alliance. There are few who continue to believe the love story when all they see is infidelity.
FIRST, a disclaimer: we’re talking about a by-election in two municipal wards and not the outcome of a national general election.
But having said that, there can be no doubting that the DA has pulled off one of the biggest political coups of recent times by taking two wards away from the ANC in Gugulethu.
They didn’t accomplish this with an opportunistic, last-minute, blitz strategy or because of apathy. This victory was the result of months, even years of work in this community by the DA which has rightly recognised that it needs to break out of traditional racial stereotyping if it is to ever make inroads into the ANC’s base.
Perhaps more telling was the fact that the victory came after the ANC’s youth league showed just what a liability it was to the party when its members were pictured on television destroying recently constructed toilet shelters because they weren’t – in their opinion and it is now clear, not that of the community – of a sufficiently high standard.
The youth league called for Cape Town to be trashed. That’s how infantile ANC politics in the Western Cape has become. If there’s one thing you can be sure of its the fact that the residents of the Western Cape are proud of the mother city. Zille’s rise to the Western Cape premiership was due in no small measure to her application of the principle that “all politics is local”. She sorted Cape Town and the voters of the province wanted more.
The Western Cape ANC is fast losing any prospect of ever winning the province back from the DA. And how long will it be before the DA takes a ward in Soweto?
Here is Helen Zille’s response to the claim that she uses double standards when dealing with sexual misconduct by Jacob Zuma and by her own party’s Lennit Max. She was responding to The Times letter writer, Mogomotsi Mogodiri. From Melany Kühn, spokesperson for Helen Zille:
Mogomotsi Mogodiri accuses Helen Zille of “duplicity” and “hypocrisy” in her handling of the allegations of marital infidelity and sexual harassment against Western Cape MEC for Community Safety, Lennit Max (So, where is Zille’s moral compass now?, 16 Feb 2010). Mogodiri correctly notes that Zille has been critical of revelations regarding President Jacob Zuma’s infidelity which led to the birth, outside of marriage, of his 20th child. There is a key difference in the two cases.
Firstly, there is a difference between a fact and an allegation. Allegations may be true. But they may also be vexatious, frivolous, driven by hidden agendas or part of a smear campaign. That is why our law assumes that people are innocent until proven guilty.
No-one is disputing the facts in the Jacob Zuma matter. Early in 2009 he impregnated his friend’s daughter. This means he had unprotected sex with her. The date of conception fell between two other marriages. The baby was born shortly before President Zuma announced his engagement to another woman who will be his sixth wife. All of this is confirmed fact.
In contrast, the allegations surrounding Lennit Max are highly contested. The allegations were initiated by Max’s former media officer who at the time faced a disciplinary hearing which resulted in his dismissal. He alleged that Max harassed two women in his Ministry. Both women strenuously deny these allegations, as does Max. In the circumstances, it is impossible to treat them as if they are proven facts.
In the middle of this polemic, Ms Belinda Petersen, a former junior employee of the Police Service, emerged. She claimed to have had sex with Lennit Max while he was representing her in a disciplinary case on charges of insubordination. Again, Max strenuously denies this. His account is the direct opposite. He says that Petersen made sexual advances to him, after which he withdrew from her case. He has produced an affidavit from a colleague about previous cases in which Ms Petersen has apparently made unfounded allegations of sexual harassment against other police officers.
Until the allegations have been separated from the facts through a proper legal process, it is impossible to work out what happened, let alone take decisive action.
As for the alleged affair with Ms Petersen: Lennit Max was not an official in the police force during 2007. His term as commissioner came to an end in 2003 — four years before he represented Ms Petersen at the hearing. And Ms Petersen waited for another three years after that before she told her story to the Son newspaper. The timing, coming shortly before the Provincial Congress at which Max is a candidate for the provincial leadership, cannot automatically be discounted as a coincidence.
Because there is a difference between an allegation and a fact, the Max matter is profoundly different from the Zuma matter.
Spokesperson for Helen Zille
This is incredible. Helen Zille appears to have one set of principles when it comes to Jacob Zuma and another set when it comes to a member of her party. Don’t believe me? Read on …
HELEN Zille on Jacob Zuma’s affair with Sonono Khoza:
“We cannot allow appeals to culture, especially when they are self-servingly distorted, to stop legitimate criticism of an elected leader who is accountable for his actions. Zuma can, and must, be called to account for private actions that have public consequences, particularly when those consequences are so profound.”
Helen Zille on Lennit Max’s alleged extra-marital affair with Belinda Petersen:
“An extra-marital affair between consenting adults in private is not a matter that can be regulated by a political party, the state or the media. If it does not have negative public consequences, such an affair is a private matter that is the concern of the participants, their families, their God and their church.”
JACOB Zuma’s administration needs to wake up to the old maxim: “All politics is local”.
At the moment, the mandarins who run the ANC’s Johannesburg Metropolitan Council are losing the plot.
They have been on a four nation junket, taking in the sights and sounds of Russia, China, Vietnam and India on what is described as an educational mission of some kind.
Meanwhile, their council is drowning in billions of rands in debt while basic services are in a shocking state.
The frequency with which water is cut off to suburbs is alarming.
The cynical lack of communication to residents about these cuts, which affect their lives dramatically, is perhaps more concerning.
Municipal bills are rising at a rate way above inflation but services are not improving.
These failings are felt by rich and poor alike.
The political costs are yet to be tallied, but the ruling ANC is doing what it can to stir up discontent among voters by treating them with contempt.
It might learn from Helen Zille, who prioritised sorting out the Cape Town metro. Those who benefitted from improved service delivery and a better run city rewarded her with a victory in provincial elections.
This was a dramatic illustration of how making a difference to the daily lives of people translates into greater political capital than ideological ranting.
As South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup, Johannesburg appears unable to deliver water to its people on a consistent basis.
Johannesburg’s claim that is a “World Class African City” is degenerating into a joke on the streets.
Right now the only thing world class about Johannesburg is the travel itinerary of its contemptuous elite.
Keeping the flame of liberty alight
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
13 November 2009
This extended edition of SA Today is based on a speech delivered today by Helen Zille at a function to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Progressive Party.
It is daunting to be speaking to the people who have mentored me politically since the day I joined the Young Progressives forty years ago—and what’s more to be talking about a subject you know so much more about than I do.
But it is also a great honour to be addressing so many of my predecessors today, as we celebrate 50 years since the birth of the political tradition that has kept, and continues to keep, the flame of liberty burning in our country. Read More…
SA Today – The truth about cadre deployment
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
23 October 2009
Various important developments this week form an interesting political pattern. They seem unrelated, but if one joins the dots, the implications are clear. the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is coming home to roost, with devastating consequences for our emerging democracy.
The DA has warned for over a decade that cadre deployment is the root cause of the “failed state”. But these criticisms have never been taken seriously. The ANC has managed to disguise cadre deployment as “racial transformation”. Anyone who opposes it, therefore, is labeled a racist. This has bludgeoned many critics into silence. Read More…