Elections have birthed a new centre, but can it hold?
Surely, wrote the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, some revelation is at hand? After all, as he had written in The Second Coming's opening verse: Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.
Yeats was deeply involved in Irish politics in the early 20th century and his poetry reflects a general pessimism about his country. Just, I suppose, as our politics in modern SA depresses us, but guess what? Read the opening verse of The Second Coming again and then cheer up a little as the results of our 2019 general election become clear and final.
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Because the falcon could, in fact, hear the falconer; things didn't fall apart; the centre did hold and no anarchy was loosed upon us. If anything, we are a stronger society coming out of this election than any other since 1994. The ANC has been punished for the years of Zuma-inspired corruption and disgrace, but its final national tally of 57.5% sets President Cyril Ramaphosa up nicely as a reformer of a crippled state and a renewer of his own poisoned party.I have suggested here that anything north of 57% would empower Ramaphosa, and we will soon see if I was right. The ANC took big and well-deserved hits around the country, and after the nail-biting finish in Gauteng it will know what standing on the precipice of defeat looks and feels like. It took Gauteng by the thinnest of margins and now has an opportunity to atone for the Life Esidimeni tragedy. If it doesn't do some good, it'll lose it for sure in 2024.
Ramaphosa has a long list of things to do.
He has to fund and resource the National Prosecuting Authority, and make a strong appeal to the private sector legal community to provide experience and time to its new chief, Shamila Batohi.
I suggested here a few weeks ago that she had decided not to proceed with any cases before the election. I'm assured that it was not the case and I owe her an apology. The fact is her prosecutors are incapable of making corruption cases. She needs help.
Ramaphosa also needs to make an easy-to-follow plan for some measure of economic recovery, and make absolutely transparent what the transition from Eskom to clean and sustainable energy will look like. He has to recreate the department of home affairs and its deranged approach to immigrants. If we are to create jobs, we first have to create employers (duh) and the only way to do that is to encourage foreigners with skills to come and live here.
He also needs to assert himself inside his own party. That will start with a slimmer new cabinet, but it is also clear that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and Ramaphosa cannot seriously coexist on the same party executive for much longer. Magashule will have to go.
Meanwhile, the EFF made huge gains, but not quite as big as it may have liked. The party is in no government anywhere, after all that screaming and shouting and threatening, and that will be the case for another five years. Even after that nothing is guaranteed if Ramaphosa does his job properly.
The biggest loser of this election, though, is the DA . So cocky ahead of last Wednesday, it has taken hidings everywhere, falling in the national vote and in Gauteng, the North West, Mpumalanga and its own "home" province, the Western Cape. If Mmusi Maimane and the rest of the leadership of the party survive this, it will fall even further next time.The DA needs to design and offer SA a clear economic alternative and not deviate from it for the next five years. The current leadership don't know how to do that and probably don't understand why it's necessary anyway. Given the situation they were confronted with in SA ahead of this election, their politics on the ground have been pathetic.This election has created, nonetheless, a new centre in our politics, and that is good. The DA and the ANC are it. It would be best for the country if they learnt to work together, but I suppose that would be asking too much.Nonetheless, the political balance has changed. This past week may have marked some sort of revival for the ANC. Barring a dramatic change of style, I think it may mark the beginning of the end for the DA, a party so frightened of new ideas it cannot even bear to talk about them behind closed doors.