Time to choose direction for a country that is undeniably at a crossroads
Not since 1994 has a South African election been so crucial. Citizens yearn for a leadership to rescue the country from a state of hopelessness. As they queue to cast their ballots on Wednesday, South Africans will do so in the hope that the men and women who have visited their homes, begging for their votes, will not let them down for a sixth time.
Just like in 1994, we have an economy that is on its knees. Young graduates roam the streets with no hope of finding employment after 10 years of economic decline under ANC leadership. The equality gap has widened as the poor sink into deeper levels of poverty. Racial tension, which at times is fanned by politicians, is at an all-time high. Our public schooling system is broken. Our public hospitals fail the poor and vulnerable daily. Crucial infrastructure in some municipalities is in a state of decay, leaving residents with no access to the most basic services. Politicians claim to have the answers to all these problems.
Voters will have to choose which of the 48 parties on the national ballot offers realistic promises. The ANC, which has governed this country since the dawn of democracy, is asking for a sixth chance. The party has a new leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has presented himself as a new broom that will sweep clean all the rot. So far he has said all the right things, for which he has been endorsed even by the global community.
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But as former president Kgalema Motlanthe said, Ramaphosa is no messiah. The rot in his party is so entrenched that it will require a massive purge, which could lead to its total collapse. Ramaphosa's cleanup campaign is facing strong resistance from within, with those accused of corruption working hard to weaken him. Until he firms up his grip on the party, he remains handicapped.
And then there is the DA. It has boasted about its record of clean government in the Western Cape and Cape Town. Through forming coalitions with smaller parties, it also took over the running of metros in Johannesburg and Tshwane. There are mixed opinions about the DA's record in government. In Cape Town, it is accused of neglecting the poor, pumping more resources into affluent areas - an allegation it denies. In Tshwane, there are lingering questions about the council awarding a R12bn contract to Glad Africa to manage its projects.
In addition, just like Ramaphosa, DA leader Mmusi Maimane's leadership is being challenged within his own party. His drive to transform the party and his introduction of progressive policies has met strong resistance. A group of influential party bigwigs feels Maimane is on a crusade to turn the DA to an "ANC lite", stripping it of its core liberal values. Maimane has promised a job in every household, but details of how he plans to achieve that have been sketchy.
Another option is the EFF. The party promises to nationalise the land and banks. It has promised "one degree, one job", meaning all graduates will be guaranteed employment under an EFF government. The EFF also wants to increase the minimum wage to R4,500. Too good to be true? You decide. But what is not disputed is that EFF leaders have a credibility deficit. Party leader Julius Malema has not been cleared of corruption charges related to government tenders in Limpopo. Other EFF bigwigs and former party MPs have repeatedly alleged that he and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, misuse party funds. Shivambu's brother is embroiled in the looting of VBS Mutual Bank, and the party's response to these allegations is far from convincing.Also on the ballot are the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Congress of the People, the United Democratic Movement, Freedom Front Plus and others.It is up to you, the voter, to choose which one of these parties has presented concrete plans to revive the economy, create jobs, fix our schools and hospitals, and ensure that citizens have uninterrupted access to services. It's the most powerful tool you have to influence the direction of the country, which, by all accounts, is at a crossroads.