Opinion

There has to be a better way to save SA than holding our noses to vote for the least-odious party

31 March 2019 - 00:07


One of the biggest waves of mass action in recent years took place as a result of political parties and civil society organisations uniting to lead people in defence of the country.
It did not take a big-budget advertising campaign or the populist bluster being used now to whip up support for the May 8 elections.
It was people across society realising that SA was in grave danger, and that demonstrable action was needed to show the then president he could not get away with reckless and treasonous conduct.
This weekend marks the second anniversary of former president Jacob Zuma's infamous midnight cabinet reshuffle that stunned the nation and topped the news agenda around the world.
The main targets were the finance minister and deputy minister, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, who he replaced with Malusi Gigaba and Sfiso Buthelezi. In a fit of blood lust, Zuma slashed a number of other ministers and deputy ministers, some of whom had pushed back against state capture and the president's unfettered power.
This opened many people's eyes to the fact that Zuma was prepared to destroy the country in service to his benefactors.
Among those who reacted was Cyril Ramaphosa, then his deputy.
The morning after the reshuffle, the usually reticent Ramaphosa expressed his outrage.
"I am especially unhappy about the firing of Gordhan and his deputy, to which the financial markets will react negatively," said Ramaphosa. "I told the president . that I would not agree with him on his reasoning to remove the minister of finance. I told him that I would articulate this publicly," he said.
It was this crisis that prompted Ramaphosa to find his voice to speak out against Zuma's disastrous reign and triggered his public campaign for the presidency.
In the weeks after the reshuffle, emotions were high and a wave of activism swept the nation.
Memorial services for the late struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada morphed into rallies to save the country. Several mass protests were held in major centres, including two massive marches to the Union Buildings. The leaders of the DA, the EFF and other opposition parties, as well as the SACP, were at the forefront of these marches.
It took 11 more months before Zuma was forced out of the presidency, and in that time he continued to run the country like a toddler with a flamethrower. He even effected one more cabinet reshuffle in a desperate attempt to secure the nuclear deal.
The country has changed significantly in two years. Ramaphosa has gone from dribbling on the sidelines to becoming president to having to explain whether he and his son were also beneficiaries of state capture.
Julius Malema has gone from leading the protests to defend Gordhan as a champion against state capture to marking him as the leader of a racist cabal.
Zuma has gone from using his political power to enable state capture and sabotage the country to reinventing himself as a scapegoat and crusader for transformation.
Many South Africans who took to the streets to defend the country are now disillusioned about the state of politics and apathetic about the elections.
To make a decision to vote requires that law-abiding, conscientious people ask themselves which political party is least offensive to their own values and principles.
It is also difficult to gauge which party will abuse and disrespect the electoral mandate the least, given that corruption is endemic and service delivery is a pretence.
In SA, major issues are not determining factors for how people vote.
Our choices are centred on the personalities of the leaders, more so now with attempts to distinguish Ramaphosa from the party he leads.
This election campaign has not been about a contestation of ideas on job creation, poverty alleviation and growing the economy - even though these should be our primary concerns.
Issues like gender equality, crime and land are fuelled by rhetoric. Climate change does not feature in this election, even though we are witness to its devastation through the drought in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape and the sweeping destruction of Cyclone Idai in neighbouring countries.
There is no real game plan by any political party to modernise our economy and use technology and innovation effectively.
Our votes might have to go down to which party is likely to keep the electricity on for more hours in a day and who is likely to steal less from state coffers. We have to hold our noses when we make a cross next to someone's face, knowing there is bound to be buyer's remorse.
Are voting and moaning on social media the sum total of civic engagement and participation in democracy? Do we take action only when a power-drunk leader pushes us over the edge?
Considering that politics determines almost every aspect of our lives, it surely cannot continue to be a spectator sport.
Our politics do not reflect who we are or who we want to be. There must be a better way to reclaim our destiny.

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