Opinion

The rot didn't start with Zuma - and giving the ANC your vote will only make it worse

31 March 2019 - 00:03 By Ken Andrew


It makes good sense to encourage President Cyril Ramaphosa - or anyone else - to do the right thing, but voting for the ANC on May 8, after its poor performance over the past 25 years, will only encourage it to do more of the same.
Most political parties change their attitudes and policies when they lose support, not when they retain or increase their support. The ANC is no different. What will force Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC to change is when their support drops substantially.
Here are five good reasons the ANC does not deserve support:
• Corruption did not start with Zuma. Sarafina, the arms deal, the improper enrichment of the ANC's Chancellor House front company and the dismantling of the Scorpions all took place before Zuma's presidency;
• The Eskom debacle did not start with Zuma. Twenty years ago, the ANC government refused to heed warnings that SA would run out of electricity before 2009 if immediate action was not taken. Inappropriate affirmative action policies resulted in a disastrous loss of technical staff, rendering Eskom incapable of functioning efficiently;
• State capture did not start with Zuma. The ANC has a formal resolution, adopted at its national conference in 1997, specifically calling for the deployment of ANC cadres in all spheres of government and all state institutions, including the judiciary;
• The appalling state of public schools did not start with Zuma. Bad policies were applied, such as outcomes-based education, closing teacher training colleges and the voluntary severance packages given to educationists in the late 1990s. Kowtowing to the South African Democratic Teachers Union made matters worse; and
• The missed economic opportunities did not start with Zuma. Despite the commendable efforts of the National Treasury, successive ANC governments' insistence on adhering to unsuitable economic policies has resulted in inadequate fixed investment, low growth and dangerously high unemployment. On average, South Africans are now getting poorer each year and it is the poorest sections of our people that are suffering most. Unless we can get economic growth of at least 4%-6%, we are in very serious trouble. Corruption and state capture need to be dealt with, but without a dramatic change in ANC economic policy, things will only get worse.
Many of these problems were exacerbated during Zuma's presidency but they were already there when he took over and remain in place today as ANC policies and practices.
Fundamental changes will happen only if the ANC loses substantial support in the general elections. If the ANC maintains most of its support, it will be business as usual in most respects.
A significant reduction in electoral support for the ANC would strengthen Ramaphosa's hand if he really wants to bring about the changes that are necessary.
Important as they are, it is not just about corruption and Zupta-led state capture. It is about poor policies and practices.
It is rather surprising that people who express outrage about corruption, theft and state capture do not express equivalent outrage as to why senior ANC politicians such as Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan, Jeff Radebe, Fikile Mbalula and many others did not speak out publicly for the best part of a decade after they became aware of a great deal of the chicanery that was going on.
The embarrassing silence of these ANC luminaries has cost SA dearly. Imagine how different SA would be if, for example, these and other ANC leaders took a firm stand when Barbara Hogan was axed in 2010 as minister of public enterprises for refusing to go along with Zuma's nefarious plans, or when Mbalula confessed that he learnt from the Guptas in 2011 that he was going to be minister of sport before being told by Zuma, or even when the Guptas were allowed to land a private aeroplane at Waterkloof Air Force Base to transport guests for a family wedding at Sun City five years ago.
The ANC is riddled with corruption from top to bottom and once some of the criminals are sent to prison - including some from the highest echelons of the party - the ANC national executive committee is highly unlikely to tolerate it, particularly if justice is meted out to more than a few scapegoats.
SA is in a parlous state right now. Dramatic changes are required if we are, at best, not to be trapped in a quagmire of diminishing standards of living and rising discontent and unrest, or, worse, become a failed state like Zimbabwe or Venezuela.
Every voter needs to think hard about what is best for our country and not rely on emotional or historical attachments. This is no time for prevarication or myopia.
• Andrew was an MP for 23 years and first chair of the standing committee on public accounts after 1994

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