Mon. Jul 15th, 2019

Stubborn historic fault lines hold South Africa back from change

South AfricaWe should all learn to abandon our historic laagers, writes Solly Moeng.

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Two days ahead of a truly important election, and with opinion poll after opinion poll confusing us with strange outcome predictions that seem totally out of sync with general sentiments on the ground and telling us that a big power shift is unlikely this time around, South Africans continue to be all over the place in terms of whom they will vote for.

If one were to take these ridiculous polls seriously, our frustration and anger at what has been done to our country do not go far enough to push for radical change, otherwise known as ‘regime change’, a term that many get shivers down their spines when they pronounce.

Political promises and payments

Political messages that are replete with unmasked lies and exaggerations, buttressed by a plethora of social media campaigns that appear to be driven with funding and other forms of assistance from unknown places, are making heads spin.

The total number of registered political parties, 48, with 19 additional ones since the last elections, does not make things any easier.

And given the huge amounts of money needed for parties to be registered on both provincial and national ballots, it is unclear where several of the new parties would have obtained the funds to be registered.

All of this begs the question, would there be faceless third parties, domestic and/foreign, with a vested interest in the outcome of elections in South Africa, who would be actively taking part in the campaign funding and messaging by some of the parties?

Do South Africans stand to be shocked, one day in the future, when news comes out about which party got funded and assisted by whom? Or are we going to see a scramble, after the elections, to ensure that new party funding transparency regulations do not touch on what would have happened ahead of the 2019 elections?

South Africa’s historic fault lines remain largely in place

The many traditional ANC supporters who have expressed frustration at everything that has been put out there – from the governing party’s role in shielding known kingpins and enablers of state capture and other forms of corruption, to including possible future prisoners in its candidate list – would like to give the party a hiding, but only just a little.

They wouldn’t want their punishing of the ANC to give too much joy to the party they still consider to be their arch enemy, the DA.

The younger and angrier ones will either stay at home – if they’ve decided not to register – or to vote for the Economic Freedoms Fighters (EFF), whose emotional appeals seem to resonate easier with their current material condition than the decidedly centrist ANC messages.

The ones who have decided not to vote no longer buy the repeated argument that voting is sacrosanct because many South Africans gave up their lives in order for them to be able to cast a vote. They’ve even come up with clever “born free-style” explanations for not voting; freed from the shackles of ‘stay-home-guilt’. They will stay away for themselves, to send a message in their own way, and they will listen to no story that seeks to make them feel guilty for the sacrifices made by others in a past they were too unborn to be part of.

Many of the older traditional ANC voters who have been bathed in ANC colours from childhood and still have vivid memories of the horrors of apartheid will support the party again, some of them probably reluctantly, citing state capture, corruption, and other bad things we all know of.

They will vote more to strengthen Cyril Ramaphosa than to endorse the ANC’s conduct of recent years, believing that under his leadership, their ANC will renew itself.

A small number will stay at home while an even smaller number will make the big jump to the DA, but they will be fewer in this age group than in younger ones. And no one should expect those who will support the DA to say so publicly; they will either keep their vote secret or lie about it.

The reason for this is that for ANC traditionalists, voting for the DA still feels like a betrayal of the revolution, an act of sedition. They know which side of their bread is buttered.

Many white Afrikaans voters who used to support the DA, following the demise of the erstwhile National Party, have also begun to feel like political orphans in Maimane’s party.

According to some of them, the DA’s drive to lure more black voters to its ranks – an obligatory move for any party with ambitions to govern South Africa – has resulted in them being left with the impression that Afrikaans has been ditched together with some of the party’s liberal policies, all resulting in the DA shifting slightly to the left of its previous political position.

Other disgruntled DA supporters cite the De Lille matter, together with others that left them with the impression that the DA continues to exist for the interests of Whites and will spew out any black leader who proves to be too clever for his or her own good, especially if that leader is black or coloured.

Accusations of racism against the DA remain its biggest huddle. This party will have to come up with other ways to push back and to totally remove the often-unfair shower of racism that stubbornly hangs over its head if it wants to grow its appeal in the broader black community.

Old walls must be broken down

Going by recent opinion polls – strange as they seem – and assuming that South Africans are truly not ready to test the elasticity of their multiparty democracy to withstand the replacement of one governing party by another, we should expect more of the same, after the 2019 elections.

If this is to change in the future, we should all learn to abandon our historic laagers, which are largely race-based, and move to converge as one vis-à-vis a shared basket of issues that will not be underpinned by race and ethnic considerations.

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