What I want to see in a political party
The IFP has recently said something interesting – it wants to attract minority voters who feel they don’t have a party to vote for.
As somebody who is seriously struggling with which party to vote for in the next elections, I figured I would come up with what I want out of a political party.
The ANC government appears to have operated entirely too much in a silo based system – where different departments each act independently rather than building on common aims.
This means that they often undermine each other – for example the ministry of mines is often at odds with tourism, agriculture and environmental affairs. Government should not be competing with itself.
I would like a party that has a plan for dealing with departmental divisions and rivalries to build a government where departments enhance each other, rather than undermine each other.
To be fair, the ANC has made some steps towards this with Trevor Manuel and the National Planning Commission, but he doesn’t seem to be making as much headway as I would like to see.
I would like an emphasis on improving the relationship between government and the civil service. Any action we take on education and the economy will ultimately rest on the shoulders of our civil servants, and thus we need their buy-in to achieve anything.
That means they should be paid and treated accordingly, and held accountable accordingly if they do not do their jobs.
Economic and scientific focus
I would like a central bank that makes jobs rather than inflation its policy target. If we can get young people working on a taxable basis, we can do more to support the elderly via state pensions.
In the ministry of finance I would like to see more exploration of starting new government run businesses. The private sector has just not come to play in several fields, and that is because we tend towards being culturally conservative in economic matters.
We need someone to blaze trails, and government has the financial capability to do that. We also need a lot of funding being pumped into the sciences – and to even perhaps hire foreign scientists until we develop more of our own – in order to find new opportunities.
We need to look to the environment while we are at it. With global climate change we need to look to food security and expanding the information available to our farmers on what crops will grow in the new climate.
We should not be a nation where we promote new farmers, only to have their groundwater poisoned by unethical mining practices. This is nothing more than setting people up to fail.
We need stronger laws to punish businesses that fail to enact decent environmental standards. Lead poisoning has been linked to higher childhood delinquency and violence. We as a mining country have a particular problem in this area.
With global environmental consciousness we need to look to how that changes how people see our products.
Less morality, culture emphasis
I would like to see a de-emphasis on culture. Commenting on the recent decision in the UK to put a focus on languages and de-emphasise the teaching of the scientific method, Maureen Brian over at Butterflies and Wheels had this to say:
“We will not be getting that ideal world under the current government whose aim seems to be to have people reciting infant school poetry before they sleep, unpaid and in fear of losing benefits, under the bridges of the nation.”
I think our emphasis on culture is doing the same thing. Think about those Eastern Cape schools where the number one thing students want isn’t computers, or science labs, it is running water. Think about communities where break-ins are committed to steal food.
Our emphasis needs to be on creating a strong economy, so we can weave strong social safety nets and feel proud rather than defensive.
With a strong economy there will be no need to defend culture or languages, they will expand and be emulated by other nations. Meanwhile direct efforts at promoting “morality” appear to be little more than the promotion of hypocrisy, it is in promoting prosperity that our nation’s moral fibre improves.
For this reason I believe the government should not have a relationship with the SA council of churches and suchlike – aside from the fact that we are not all religious nor do we all even see religion as promoting morality, it is not for the government to lecture us on this sort of thing. It is for the government to provide an environment in which morality and culture thrives.
Less unelected leadership
I would like to see traditional leadership phased out entirely – if traditional leaders have the support of their constituencies they can stand for election just like anybody else. I would also like to see an end to efforts to divide and woo different cultural groups.
We should not be speaking of how to best attract the Afrikaans vote, or the English speaking vote, or the Indian vote, or the Xhosa vote, or the Pedi vote etc...
Such puts artificial divides between population groups, as though we could ascribe a particular set of values and policy positions to those groups and thus divorce ourselves from the need to listen to the people in them. We assign people to their pigeon holes and promptly ignore them as individuals.
Worse, we pick the noisy as representative of those groups, when really they only represent themselves.
I believe our political leadership should represent our people, not our peoples. We cannot achieve reconciliation so long as we see each other as different tribes, rather than members of one nation striving for a common vision of what we want that nation to be.
I do not think the IFP will be the party that delivers on these things – but I look forward to the day when I can find a party that will.
Now I cannot speak for anybody but myself, this is purely what I am looking for in a party. What are you looking for?