There are few exceptions to the accepted rule that politicians around the world are highly skilled individuals – at feathering their own nests. A significant chunk of the South African Democratic Alliance’s election strategy this time around was to point up the more blatant examples of African National Congress corruption, such as the Nkandla scandal, and hope that this would be enough to persuade blacks in particular, to switch their votes to the DA. Some hope. The tactic backfired badly.
In the year or so leading up to the election, there had been much other than large scale corruption to peeve the electorate. The country has been strike ridden, particularly in the volatile mining sector (it still is), causing a run on external confidence in South Africa which subsequently saw the Rand plummet (it is now worth a piddling 17.5 to the Pound).
Marikana, an event which shocked the world with the extent of brutality demonstrated by South African Police Servicemen as they gunned down about thirty marching miners, left scars reminiscent of the worst of Apartheid years.
There have been countless service delivery protests from the worst off in society, some of these violent, most involving participants burning public buildings, including schools and health facilities. In the Western Cape wine making communities, a stone’s throw from the ‘Mother City’, farm workers burned their crops to underline their demand for higher wages – hardly endearing themselves to owners of the land in the process, and causing mindsets on both sides to be virtually immovable.
While economic growth slumped, inflation continued on its rampant course, and unemployment reached such dizzying heights that the better off almost felt sorry for the criminals who were robbing their homes, the ANC advised the country that ‘they had a good story to tell.’ Most semi-literate observers scoffed at this claim.
So you might be forgiven for thinking that the DA’s flawed election strategy should have paid dividends. I’ve heard it argued in the Knysna Golf Club (that bastion of conservative thinking) that the Democratic Alliance ‘did so much better this time,’ but frankly there’s little evidence to support this assertion. In practice there was little change in the pattern of voting, to that observed on previous occasions. Okay, if you want the exact figures, the ANC’s share of the vote dipped by 3.8% nationally, and the DA did make a 6% gain across the board. But these changes are hardly enough to make even the most optimistic supporter of the DA believe that salvation is coming.
Enter the Economic Freedom Party formed only months before the election by ‘kill the Boers’ Julius Malema. In spite of a government campaign to ‘run him out of town’ and prosecutions against him for fraud (which stripped him of property, and much of his accumulated wealth), he bounced back with 6.4% of the national vote – the main factor accounting for this year’s ANC losses.
Amazingly therefore, against a background of the worst ANC governance record imaginable, with a leader at their helm who makes most people sick to the teeth, the party’s rock solid support remained largely in tact. The DA must take a hard look at themselves for a sensible analysis of this phenomenon. Helen Zille, the party Chief, is a gutsy woman. But she’s also a bit daft looking, especially when she tries to dance in public like Big Man Zuma or Puddin’ Malema. It’s time she took a back seat. If the party is really serious about attracting the black vote, they’re going to have to find a good black intellect to lead them – someone who won’t send whites running to the hills. Not an easy task.
Meanwhile as parliamentarians are sworn in this week, it is interesting to observe how they are truly lining their nests. A Member of Parliament receives R933,000 a year. A Minister gets R2.1 million. And the President is considered good enough to earn R2.6m. All such figures equate roughly to those received by UK counterparts. In fact, Zuma receives more than Prime Minister CameroonBar. But Britain is a developed economy. The same cannot be said for South Africa, nor is it anywhere close to pushing up the glass ceiling. Judge for yourself whether your SA parliamentarian is worth it.
This was a contribution by the author Mike Wood who lives in the Knysna suburb of Belvidere. He’s a beekeeper and DJ at KnysnaFM. You can read more of his blogs at www.michaelconradwood.com.