It will help op­po­si­tion if Zuma re­mains in power

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE is a view that has gained cur­rency in many cir­cles in re­cent weeks, that politics in South Africa will be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent after Tues­day’s vote of no con­fi­dence in President Ja­cob Zuma, es­pe­cially if the vote is be­ing held in se­cret. Some peo­ple be­lieve a se­cret vote against the president will gen­er­ate a ma­jor­ity.

I hate to dis­ap­point the eter­nal op­ti­mists, but this is not about to hap­pen. Apart from those who have al­ready made their views known, I don’t see many other ANC MPs go­ing against the party line.

The malaise in the ANC is much big­ger than one per­son and re­mov­ing one per­son will not make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. This is one thing, surely, on which the ANC and the op­po­si­tion agree.

What the vote of con­fi­dence does – as have the six or seven pre­vi­ous ones – is to present the op­po­si­tion with a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to tell vot­ers and po­ten­tial vot­ers where the ANC has failed and where they would be able to do a bet­ter job, if they should be voted into power.

While those in the op­po­si­tion to the ANC’s cur­rent lead­er­ship – and they in­clude many ANC mem­bers – are hop­ing to con­vince some ANC MPs to vote against the president, the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion (the DA) and their al­lies, the EFF, must be qui­etly hop­ing they will fail.

After all, Zuma is the op­po­si­tion’s most po­tent weapon and it would not serve their pur­pose to re­move him at this point, be­cause it would give the ANC at least a year and a bit to re­cover some of the ground it has lost.

It will be much more dif­fi­cult for the op­po­si­tion to cam­paign against an ANC un­der a new lead­er­ship which prom­ises clean gov­er­nance, an end to cor­rup­tion and im­proved liv­ing con­di­tions for the ma­jor­ity of South Africans.

I know the ANC has al­ways promised this, from the time of the “bet­ter life for all” slogan in 1994, but South Africans, des­per­ate for any hope, might just be­lieve a new ANC lead­er­ship, even in the in­terim, would be able to de­liver. They might be per­suaded to make their crosses next to the party’s logo in 2019.

But politics is all about us­ing your op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­ploit your en­emy’s weak­nesses and to mo­bilise.

The cur­rent ANC is per­ceived to be weak, so they present a good op­por­tu­nity to the op­po­si­tion, one which they have gladly grabbed with both hands.

We have al­ready seen the DA pre­sent­ing the of­fice of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with what they say are a mil­lion sig­na­tures from South Africans ask­ing him and other ANC MPs to vote against the president in the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence.

Mo­bil­i­sa­tion is also go­ing on fre­net­i­cally be­hind the scenes to en­sure that there are sev­eral protests over the next few days, cul­mi­nat­ing in a huge march to Par­lia­ment ahead of Tues­day’s vote.

The ANC, which used to have a mo­nop­oly on mass protests in the old days, have re­sponded by call­ing a march of their own – in sup­port of the president. Good on them, the op­po­si­tion can’t have all the fun.

But, se­ri­ously, what­ever the out­come of Tues­day’s vote, our democ­racy is in good shape.

When we voted for the first time in demo­cratic elec­tions in 1994, many of us who had been in­volved in the Strug­gle, thought that this would in fu­ture be our only con­tri­bu­tion to democ­racy.

We would go and vote ev­ery cou­ple of years and, hope­fully, the party which we voted into power, would make sure that the lives of South Africans im­prove.

After all, our op­po­si­tion to apartheid meant that we wanted a so­ci­ety where the ma­jor­ity would be able to im­prove their lives through equal ac­cess to job op­por­tu­ni­ties, bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, health care, hous­ing, etcetera.

We had a blind be­lief that the ANC, be­cause of its record in op­pos­ing apartheid, would do a good job of chang­ing the lives of South Africans in a mean­ing­ful way. As time went by, we re­alised your po­lit­i­cal pedi­gree and Strug­gle cre­den­tials do not nec­es­sar­ily trans­late into a de­sire to im­prove peo­ple’s lives, ex­cept your own.

Democ­racy is so much more than ex­er­cis­ing your vote. Democ­racy means get­ting in­volved in or­gan­i­sa­tions and fo­rums where de­ci­sions are made about your com­mu­nity and so­ci­ety in gen­eral. Democ­racy means that, if you see bad be­hav­iour by politi­cians, you should let them know about it and warn them that they are not guar­an­teed your vote the next time.

I am so ex­cited about what is hap­pen­ing in politics. Or­di­nary peo­ple are say­ing they want their voices to be heard be­yond mak­ing a cross at elec­tion time.

The like­li­hood is those in power will not lis­ten im­me­di­ately – and the president will re­main in power – and that is why the pres­sure needs to con­tinue, ul­ti­mately im­pact­ing on where we put our mark in the next elec­tion.

Not much will change po­lit­i­cally after Tues­day, but this is not nec­es­sar­ily bad. It pro­vides more op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­gage on the na­ture of our democ­racy and what we ex­pect from our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. It is not about what we ex­pect from Zuma, but from all po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing those in the op­po­si­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.