Reading this, you may be standing in the queue waiting to cast your vote; or you may already have done so, and are now waiting for the results.
I’m assuming, of course, that few regular Fin24 readers would opt not to cast their vote. This is, after all, the most important national election after the one that helped us bid apartheid goodbye in 1994. It will tell us the extent to which the South African electorate has matured from being emotional voters to rational ones who take the necessary time to look at the facts and connect the dots.
Going by the outcome of the 2016 municipal elections and many of the calls to radio talk-shows and conversations on social media, change is already happening, at least in the way South Africans view politicians and political parties. Increased numbers of people, especially Blacks (in the broad sense), openly declare their intention to vote for the DA – a party many still prefer not to be seen in the company of during the day – or to have voted for it.
Increasing numbers of others openly discuss their disgust at the extent of the rot that has been exposed in recent years, and that continues to be expressed, in the party of their hearts, ANC. But, of course, expression of disgust and disappointment does not necessarily indicate which way people vote; even though it forms part of the changed and changing public sentiment that no observer should ignore.
What the polls say
Several polls have predicted that the ANC will win the national vote with a slightly reduced majority, leaving it somewhere between 50% and 57% of national voter support.
I think a score below 50% shouldn’t come as a shock. If it did, it would be good for the ANC and it would be good for South Africa. It would be good for the ANC because there is very little chance of this party self-correcting, despite many repeating this claim ad nauseam. Those who make the claim will point to the laudable senior departures from various state-owned entities that have been triggered by the courts or adverse outcomes of inquiries such the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into the South African Revenue Service, the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation, and the Mokgoro inquiry report on the former Deputy NDPP, Nomgcobo Jiba and her colleague, Laurence Mrwebi. President Cyril Ramaphosa only administered the coup de grâce after the adverse outcomes were made.
He followed the right procedures in these cases, of course. He did not have to be the one using his discretion to fire them before the courts did, as that would have led to more long-drawn and expensive legal processes South Africans are already tired of.
A new, more decisive Ramaphosa?
Where it gets worrisome is in the many cases that have remained glaring for more than a year since he took over from the one-I-shall-no-longer-mention-here, where it concerned problematic, even criminal, ministers who have been serving at his pleasure. With these cases, the president lost an opportunity to demonstrate that he did not need the courts of commissions of inquiry to decide what is tolerable conduct in public office and what is not, and that he could not work with people who should have been processed long ago by our criminal justice system when he discussed sensitive matters of state and made decisions about the future of our country.
Now, some people will argue that I’m being harsh, even unreasonable, reminding me that Ramaphosa didn’t win an outright mandate in Nasrec in December 2017 and could therefore not get rid of the ministers implicated in various forms of crimes against the interests of our country; ministers whose very being stood in stark contrast with the ideals of a Thuma Mina-buttressed new dawn.
But all of this resulted in the whole journey, from the long-awaited and most-welcomed departure of the one-whose-name-I-shall-not-mention to the 2019 elections, being turned into a “do as I say; not as I do” slow waltz on a cracked album track. Ok, that is a bit harsh; but I hope you get the point I’m trying to make.
The next chapter
Essentially, and probably because of not having won an outright majority in Nasrec and having to work with an awesomely problematic and ethically conflicted Secretary-General who contradicts him at every turn, President Ramaphosa has not really been able to show that he doesn’t stand for nonsense.
There is not a single problematic person that he removed from a ministerial office, where he doesn’t first need any court or commission of inquiry to tell him to do so, out of his own judgement and need to lead from the front when it comes to ethical leadership.
But much of that is now a matter of yesterday; sort of.
The next Ramaphosa chapter – assuming that he would have been strengthened after winning the 2019 election – must be the one where the decisive Ramaphosa comes out of his shell and calls to order even those in his ranks who act against the interests of our country and his own project to lead our great country on a much-needed path to reputational recovery that should pave the way for investment growth and economic stability.
Whoever becomes our next president will need the support of all South Africans, not only those who would have voted for his/her party, to unite our people around a shared set of national goals that will exclude no part of our population. Too much time and energy have already been lost in unnecessary squabbling. We need to start building together again!