Democracy has shown us flames. Or is it coalitions? It might very well be that democracy has further exposed itself in this country as more problematic than it was uncritically thought to be. We are essentially dealing with a system that has nothing to do with the will of the people, but rather the cunningness of politicians for their own selfish interests.
The outcome of the post-election coalition machinations has made it evidently clear that this whole thing does not necessarily have anything to do with the citizens. It is about who masters this treacherous game of numbers. For many weeks now, I have been impressing the unprincipled “danger” of “kingmakership” factor of small parties and so-called independents. This movie was explicitly played in the constitution of councils in the metros, particularly Nelson Mandela, Ethekwini, Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.
Understanding that politics is far more than just sentiments, I argue that It involves farsighted reinterpretation of socio-economic dynamics and events to reach one’s end-goal of social reconstruction. This is where ideology comes to the fore. The outcome of the municipal elections and the subsequent or emergent coalitions “fashioned out” in the aftermath thereof serve to confirm who the real victor is. Politically, and ideologically, I think the EFF is the ultimate winner in terms of what they set for themselves to achieve, which is to dislodge the ruling party in their march towards 2024- where it should matter most. In this respect, the EFF war room has proven to have been the majestic teacher of politics, and star player of the game!
How did the EFF play this game of numbers, called electoral politics or democracy? It is my view that the EFF think tank has been aware that elections, on their own, are not really a revolutionary act. However, they seem to understand that in the prevailing circumstances, elections may be used as a tool towards a seismic change in terms of ensuring the ruling party is excoriated from crucial levers of power.
I am on record as having consistently stated that democracy, as a colonial importation from Europe, is highly overrated. It essentially rests on the manipulation of numbers in order to achieve one’s political objectives. It is a numbers game!
What strikes me is what I perceive to be a masterstroke on the part of the EFF, by voting for the DA in the various powerful metropolitan municipalities that I have just referred to. The EFF’s tactical acumen, in this regard, was laid bare in that it used the DA as an (un)willing sword to pierce the heart of the ANC. With the not-so-many numbers on their side, the EFF has been able to think through “a stratagem” to execute a telling blow to the ruling party. So resolute they have been on this mission that, despite the explicit animosity on the part of the DA, they still went on to vote for the DA as a vehicle towards their broader agenda. In fact, by taking this step, the EFF was voting against the ANC and not so much voting for the DA. And we shouldn’t take this scenario lightly. It’s a very important step with far-reaching consequences for the ANC and, of course, bears other implications for this country’s political landscape and future.
For the DA, their “victories” in terms of toppling the ANC in the crucial Gauteng municipalities must be a confusing, if not a paradoxical one. Celebrating such “victories” while knowing full well that you partly won because of the critical votes from the ones you despised must be the most unsettling scenario. Borrowed robes or a bubble? It won’t be completely correct to rush to the conclusion that the DA has been given a poisoned chalice. However, ethically, it’s an embarrassing situation of the DA enjoying the fruits of a poisoned tree, to draw from a legal parlance. But, then, this is politics. It’s all about power.
I really don’t know exactly why the ANC vehemently opposed the proposals tabled by the EFF on the sharing of metropolitan councils. But they didn’t see anything amiss with gifting the Patriotic Alliance (PA) some critical positions in certain municipalities, especially in the Western Cape. Lo and behold, now all the Gauteng metros are gone, just on account of this indiscretion on the part of the ANC. It’s quite interesting that what the EFF basically put to the ANC in these post-elections deliberations is fundamentally what the ANC should be about- that is, if we interrogate the objective of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and their Freedom Charter. Ideally, such should be a total no-brainer.
What is un-ANC about the expropriation of land without compensation (so that the people shall share in the wealth of this country)? What is un-ANC about the nationalization of the reserve bank and the mines? We can continue and ask about the opening of clinics 24 hours, the insourcing of black workers and thus freeing them from unscrupulous labour brokers; the provision of free education, supplying free sanitary towels to all women and girls and the strengthening of state power in the economic space by stopping the sale of State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). What is un-ANC about all these? I am talking about the real ANC, and not this present-day structure transmogrified and transmuted by foreign interests.
I think a deep reflection on the current ANC, politically, evinces a serious ideological and mission drift that the “people’s movement” has tragically embarked on. What’s really happening? Why this obstinance with the pursuance of the neo-liberal, anti-black policy trajectory?
It’s not my intention to anticipate nor pre-empt the potential ructions this will have for the fragile and fractious party that is inevitably tottering towards its all-important elective conference next year. It is my view that the rank and file members need to be honest with themselves and relieve themselves from the stranglehold of intra-party factional interests and fractures; and think the ANC and not Cyril Ramaphosa or whoever. It will, for instance, be calamitous if the ANC were to go to the 2022 conference with anti-revolutionary taglines like #CR22. Such machinations are foreign to the culture of this party, and are thus un-ANC. That would be the almost-certain death-knell of the ANC, which, eventually will somewhat be good for the marginalised black majority, the victims of ANC betrayal for 27 years now.
But the grip of the capture of white monopoly capitalism on the ANC will make it really difficult to, decisively, take the correct path. Compared to 2016 (or any other election in this country) the ANC’s performance in these municipal elections is the worst. For the record, it’s not Jacob Zuma at the helm, it’s Cyril Ramaphosa.
Acknowledging democracy as a game of numbers, we must admit the EFF became the master-teachers in this game, for they rattled the ANC as if to demonstrate the actual meaning of their electioneering chant of “Tshela Thupa”. This is where it hurts most: the governing party is not in control of the country’s capital city (Tshwane) and its economic hub (Johannesburg).
Can the ANC recover and steady itself for the 2024 national elections? I think it’s up to its ordinary members not to be defensive and dismissive of the harsh realities. It’s not even up to journalists or political commentators. I was asking myself whether there is no one in the thousands of ANC cadres not tainted or stained by factional blood and indiscretions of whatever form to take up the cudgels. The irritating ghost of “state capture” of the Guptas and the current ostensible “state capture” of white monopoly capitalism need to be tackled with honesty. Both these forms of “capture” are equally problematic for the ANC. What I am saying is that crime is crime, regardless of who is involved therein. The same revulsion and ferocity with which the perceived Guptas capture was responded to should be applied to the capture at the hands of white monopoly capitalism (WMC). Yes, it is “what-about-ism”, and such is crucial in matters of consistency, impartiality, fairness and integrity.
I honestly think there are great women and men in the ANC who can step up to the plate, rise to the occasion and pursue the agenda of the ANC and nothing else. But I think such cadres are subdued in these politics of proxy where strong external forces pull the strings in this “glorious” movement of yore. I think there can’t be talk of genuine unity and renewal of the organisation, as mandated by the 2017 elective conference at NASREC, without frankly confronting the debilitating proxy politics that have crept in.
Coming back to the EFF, their consistency in terms of voting against the ANC (by voting for the DA) is well established. Their explanation of this rationale in 2016 and currently, is simple. Neo-liberal and anti-black policies are safe and secure under the ANC government. It is in this context that, objectively, the ANC is a thoroughly brutal security apparatus and buffer for neo-iberalism, imperialism, neo-colonialism and naked capitalism. For the EFF, therefore, in its perceived march towards a socialist mission, it is necessary to dismantle this barrier. All this should make sense if seen in the context of the 2024 national elections, which promise to be a watershed moment for this country as it faces the historical possibility of breaking with three decades of anti-socialist rule under the ANC. It remains a great lesson dished by the EFF, in electoral politics, on how to effectively work with what one has in one’s arsenal to pursue one’s revolutionary agenda.
Emasculating the ANC is one big deal, but the bigger deal for the EFF will be the mammoth task of ensuring the people capture state power for a true socialist agenda. And who doesn’t want to be there when that happens? For now, it’s been politics 101 by the red berets of Julius Malema. In the far northern part of the Limpopo province, when expressing a painful feeling, the people say, “zwi khou konda”.
David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and Law academic