More and more, the ANC has become a party with a split personality
The posters have shrivelled in the sun. The messages - never imaginative in the first place - are stale, repetitive and boring. The politicians, now merely going through the motions, sound like stuck records. The voters wonder whether the blooming thing will ever end. After almost a year of campaigning, they're none the wiser. If anything, the campaign has left most people flustered and confused. It's been a big yawn.
But be patient, dear voter. The end is nigh. Soon the nightmare will be over. The phony spectacle of complete strangers, pretending they know and care about your aspirations, will be a thing of the past. The voter is merely a stepping stone, a ticket to riches. A seat in parliament - or, better still, a chair at the cabinet table - will do nicely. It is a source of income, not an opportunity to serve. Which is why every man and his dog has formed a political party. It will be crowded at the trough. The people will be left chasing the mirage, as they have for the past 25 years.
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After the votes have been counted, one suspects, the daggers will be drawn.The ANC election campaign has been like a war dance, or two bulls circling each other in the kraal. Once the votes are in and victory is assured, the lap of honour will probably be forsaken as they fight for the spoils.What's been remarkable about the ANC campaign is how the members kept hurling insults at each other. The opposition was inside, not outside. Ace Magashule, who seems to grow more defiant with each revelation of his wrongdoing, complained that his telephone was being tapped, presumably by Cyril Ramaphosa or those working on his behalf. Magashule tramples on the party's noble tradition of nonracialism by telling black people no white man will ever improve their lot. And probably, in what seems like a dig at Ramaphosa, he says the party's top six are all equal and no-one is superior to the others. The man is growing more defiant by the day.
But to be president must surely count for something. It can't just be a roomful of equals. Most times, a leader must be able to make an organisation bend to his will. He's not a dictator but at the very least he's first among equals. Otherwise what's the point of being president? Why toil to reach the summit if the reward is to carry water for the likes of Magashule?
Something seems afoot here. Magashule's language is that of the EFF: racist with an emphasis on land. He's closer to Julius Malema than he is to Ramaphosa. Like Malema, incendiary language is his stock-in-trade. He and David Mabuza have been making overtures to Malema. There's no doubt which partner they would prefer for a coalition should the ANC fail to get an outright majority.
By playing victim (that he's a target of security surveillance, etc), Magashule is following another copybook. Jacob Zuma saw the corruption charges levelled against him as part of a political conspiracy concocted by Thabo Mbeki to stop him from becoming president. Even his rape trial was initially seen as a setup by Mbeki. That victimhood propelled Zuma to high office.
Magashule, by complaining about being bugged, seems to have a nascent conspiracy on the go; it could come in handy. Ramaphosa could be accused of having had the impudence, or audacity, to investigate his comrades. Zuma has proved that corruption charges are not a bar to high office.
These elections have left voters - especially ANC supporters - in something of a quandary. If you vote for the ANC, which ANC faction are you voting for? What are you buying? How can you be sure that by voting for the ANC you're not putting Magashule and his corrupt cronies, or even Malema, in charge? Instead of clarifying the issues, the campaign has left people confused and a bit despondent.
Ramaphosa has promised a trimmed-down corruption-fighting cabinet. Proof of the pudding will be in the eating. And that eating will come immediately after the elections. His first cabinet, his imprimatur, will be awaited with great interest. It will tell us a lot about what we need to know about our president. We will, to be a bit pretentious about it, peek into his soul. "As democracy is perfected," HL Mencken, the American scholar, once said, "the office of president represents more and more closely the inner soul of the people."Ramaphosa has disappointed many by allowing flawed characters to get on the party's parliamentary list. He's become almost a bystander in the controversy. His defenders say that criticism is unfair because he's not alone in taking such decisions. But how can he hope to govern even marginally successfully if his writ can't run in his own party? He should be able to clean up his own back yard first if he wants to be taken seriously.But the preponderance of corrupt individuals in his parliamentary caucus will limit his ability to choose a cleaner and meaner cabinet. And there's a greater likelihood of making even more powerful enemies because everybody in this large tripartite tent - the party, the unions, the communists and the civics - are not only demanding to be consulted about cabinet appointments, they also want a piece of the action. It may maintain peace in the alliance, but it's no way to run a country.So we vote so that the comrades can divvy up the spoils among themselves. But vote we must. Too much sacrifice has been made by so many so that we should enjoy the privilege. And those who fail to vote surely forfeit any right to complain about government ineptitude.