Disc Dem

Disc Dem

Friday, 15 April 2016

To Break or Brake the ANC?

Listening to all the political rhetoric, we could be forgiven for believing that if we vote for opposition parties in the upcoming local government elections, it will bring about the immediate downfall of Jacob Zuma and South Africa’s ANC National Government. The reality is that, whatever the outcome of these elections, Jacob Zuma could still be with us until at least 2017, and the ANC will most certainly still be running the country until at least 2019.

It is also important to remember that the ANC remains very strong in Kwazulu-Natal, and in the rural areas of other provinces, so the fuss is really only about who will control the Metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.

If you are dreaming of outright DA victories in Johannesburg and Tshwane, then dream on.  The EFF had a strong showing in the 2014 national elections in Gauteng, and has been gaining ground ever since, so coalition politics is a more likely outcome in these two metros. In this case, my question to the electorate, not forgetting that the EFF was spawned from the ANC is: will you be happy with a DA/EFF coalition and, more importantly, will such a coalition actually work? Personally I do not think so as their ideologies are so far apart they should be ethically irreconcilable. Compromises of titanic proportions would be required, such that disagreements could precipitate the same fate for the coalition as the famed ship of that name.  Then what is to happen? Will it be an ANC/EFF coalition, or an ANC/DA coalition?

It also begs the question: is completely fracturing the ANC at this time really worth it when the outcome is continuing dysfunctional governance, where the only winners are the politicians and not us? In any event, a potential fracture will not be so large that an opposition party will freely walk into a metro with an outright majority, except perhaps in Nelson Mandela Bay. In a coalition scenario it may therefore be better that the ANC and DA swallow their political pride and co-operate.  A combination of centre-left and centre-right is infinitely more workable than a centre-right/far-left betrothal. 

Before you reject this idea out of hand, consider what master-tactician Sun Tsu says in his book The Art of War, which is still used today to guide not only military, but also civil and business strategies: “If you surround the enemy, leave an outlet; do not press an enemy that is cornered”. By extending their hand in this way, the DA may give the ANC the outlet they need to prevent a large number of their “cornered” supporters from lashing out, and fracturing the country as a whole.  It is a big decision whether to break or just brake the ANC, which makes it imperative that we understand what we are voting for, instead of just blindly voting against the ANC.

To those who still have the complete destruction of the ANC at the top of their wish-list, I would say that you must be careful what you wish for - it may just be granted. 

The bottom line, though, is that the above is debating issues that would never have occurred if we had an electoral system that promoted constituency accountability above party loyalty. We would now rather be asking the right questions about local service delivery, instead of focusing our efforts on removing a single individual from national office.

Whatever your political affiliation, it is incontrovertible that the electoral system itself needs to be changed, and the sooner the better if we want to ensure “a better life for all” and not just “a better life for politicians”.  

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Dysfunctional Democracy or Disengaged Politocracy?

(Politocracy (n) : a multi-party political system where politicians work for the benefit of their parties and not the electorate)

If you can stand back from the political feeding frenzy surrounding the Zuma/Concourt/Gupta soap opera for a moment, please take some time to consider the following:  Why are we allowing politicians to make “defending the Constitution” their main campaign focus for local government elections, and not the ever-deteriorating levels of municipal service delivery?

Local government is, with few exceptions, an unmitigated disaster. By focusing our attention on the supposedly higher ambitions of unseating Jacob Zuma and dismantling the ANC, are opposition politicians hoping that no explanation of their own political shortcomings in local governance will be needed?

Perversely, while it is a direct attack on them by the opposition, the ANC can also benefit from a “national referendum” strategy. The majority of ANC-controlled municipalities are financial and service delivery disasters. Framing the upcoming elections around defending the Organisation therefore serves the ANC better than having to confront their otherwise dismal failure at this level of governance.

The EFF, however, will be the main beneficiaries of a national referendum platform.  They have no track record of actually governing anything, so they are reliant upon a generally populist rhetoric that only really works for them at a national level.  Their increasingly belligerent and militaristic approach may work in parliament, but may not work as well for them on smaller, local stages. In announcing that the April 30th launch of their election manifesto will “start the march to have Zuma removed”, the EFF have tied their local government election wagon firmly to the more advantageous national referendum train. It remains to be seen whether their manifesto addresses the real challenges of local governance, or turns out to be an empty drum that just makes a lot of noise.

The DA is perhaps a surprise passenger on this journey as they really do have a better story to tell when it comes to local governance. They are nowhere near perfect at it, but they are several light years ahead of the ANC when it comes to service delivery, and most certainly ahead of the EFF who have yet to govern anything at all.  In a properly functioning democracy, this should be the DA’s main thrust when campaigning, yet they have also joined in the populist howling of their main opponents. 

So while we, Joe Public, are being led by the nose down a politically populist path, what are we missing? Of critical importance is that we are missing the opportunity to hold our local government politicians to account.  We should be demanding that they justify proportional representation at this level of governance. Demanding to know why we need so many politicians, costing such a lot of money, to mismanage local government so badly[1]

Before I am challenged with the “everyone has a voice” justification for retaining proportional representation, let’s look at a few facts:  The DA and ANC hold 85.1% of all proportional seats across the eight metro councils, which translates into a ratio of 4.5 additional ANC and DA party voices to the 1 voice for “everyone” else. Nationally, excluding the regionally anomalous Kwazulu-Natal, they hold a combined average of 82% of all proportional seats, at a cost of around R1.4bn per year in salaries alone.

Is it really worth taking R1.4bn per year away from service delivery in order to primarily supplement ANC and DA payrolls, and only then give voices to so few others? Voices which, in any event, are generally silenced or ignored by the two main parties? An awful lot of potholes could be fixed, water and sanitation delivered, and electricity supplied for R1.4bn.

Now is the time to listen to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who recently said, “Ethical leadership (in South Africa) is not optional, it is a national imperative”.  Therefore, as an imperative, let the present leadership of all political parties give us their ethical justification for continuing with their disengaged politocracy, instead of embracing a true democracy, warts and all.

Sadly, I think the term “ethical politics” is an oxymoron[2], but as a parting thought: If the ANC can engineer an acceptable Zumexit, and time the announcement perfectly, is it possible that they can take the wind completely out of the “national referendum” sails of the opposition, or are they now so internally fractured that recovery is impossible?

Just asking....but having gambled heavily on a national referendum platform, if Zuma is gone, what do the opposition have left in their armoury, and where does that leave us, the paying public, in our quest for accountable local governance? 

Whichever way it turns out for President Zuma, the ANC, EFF and DA et al, one inevitable outcome is that taxpayers will continue to be fleeced by local government politicians for another five years, simply because we have taken our eyes off the ball.  It really is time to change the rules of the game.

[1] See featured post : Disconnected Priorities
[2] Oxymoron (noun) - a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction e.g. deafening silence, Military Intelligence, civil servant, Microsoft Works etc.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Dishonourably Honourable

It may have been entertaining watching opposition parties line up in parliament to take well-argued and extremely well-aimed pot-shots at President Zuma and the ANC, but behind the theme of all the attacks was their acknowledgement that the efforts to impeach the President were doomed to failure.  In an editorial comment the following day Alec Hogg[1] of Biznews perceptively highlights that the “ANC will Dump Zuma – but only in its own good time”.

It is widely recognised, even within the organisation, that Jacob Zuma has become a liability to the ANC. The longer he stays at the helm the more advantageous it is for opposition parties in the upcoming local government elections. President Zuma’s demise was, and remains inevitable, so why was the opposition so hasty in calling for an impeachment debate?

It beggars belief that the DA and EFF suddenly discovered altruistic streaks in their self-serving political agendas large enough for them to willingly give up this gem of an advantage. Were they really sincerely concerned that the ANC will take too long to do the right thing, or more concerned that the ANC will do the right thing too soon, before they, the main opposition, are able to milk it to their ultimate advantage?

As I suspect that the majority of politicians have altruism erased from their persona at birth, I lean towards the self-serving motive. The most effective ways to drive the ANC into laager and ensure that Jacob Zuma stays in place is to challenge the ANC to recall him, or to try to obtain his removal through the parliamentary impeachment process.

It is too generous to assume that the ANC were about to imminently dump Zuma, as he still enjoys considerable support within the organisation, but by openly challenging the ANC, the opposition have now made it a cast iron certainty that he cannot be dumped any time soon. 

So, political advantage has been gained by the opposition, but at what cost to the country? The impeachment process was really nothing more than the opposition contributing towards what Standard and Poor’s Konrad Reuss describes as “political noise” that will almost certainly have a negative effect on our sovereign credit rating.

Having started the whole debacle, the ANC are not blameless in escalating the political cacophony. They turned up the volume themselves on Friday when first President Zuma, and then Secretary General Gwede Mantashe failed quite spectacularly to accept any responsibility, or pronounce upon any consequences stemming from the Constitutional Court judgement.  Tuesday’s predictable outcome of the impeachment process just ramped up the volume of political noise even further, bringing us ever closer to junk status.

Sadly, and because of this, the EFF & DA are about to turn their Constitutional Court triumph for our democracy and democratic institutions into a facile and pyrrhic victory for politicians. In the 1980’s, British humourist John Cleese produced a 4-part series of corporate training videos entitled “So you want to be a success at selling?  In part 4 “Closing the Sale” one of the strongest messages was that when you have made the sale, stop talking before you say something that makes your customer rethink their decision.  The EFF and DA had made their sale at the Constitutional Court, but they haven’t yet stopped talking.

What this circus really tells us, though, is that none of our politicians puts the country first. They are all so wrapped up in scoring political points in their all-consuming quest for power, that they have lost sight of their true purpose. Their true purpose is not only to uphold and defend the Constitution, but also to always act in the best interests of the country and its people.  In this, they have failed us miserably. 

It most certainly was not in the best interests of the country and its people to push us closer to the potential hardship that will result from junk status, but in true political style they carried on playing the game, even though they had long ago dropped the ball.  

The only thing that will make a difference to all these dishonourable “Honourables” is a change in the electoral system, the need for which is now dire.

[1] www.biznews.com or http://bit.ly/1V95PsW to go directly to the editorial comment.